There have been calls for the Skellig Star Direct Provision Centre to be closed immediately amid concerns that up to 23 cases of Covid-19 are now confirmed at the centre.
The calls come following a silent protest outside the centre on Sunday morning over concerns about the health and safety of those living in the centre and of the wider community. The Covid-19 outbreak has caused huge public-health concerns in the community as up to 23 cases are believed to now be confirmed at the centre, including both residents and staff members. and even a seven-year-old child.
There have also been calls for an inquiry into how 98 asylum seekers were moved from Dublin to Cahersiveen during the pandemic, along with calls for the centre to be closed as it is not possible to self-isolate in the boutique hotel, with residents forced to share common areas.
Cllr Norma Moriarty has been in contact with the HSE and the Department of Justice amid much public upset over the lack of information given to the community.
"This is not fit for purpose. Even if the COVID-19 cases were not at the centre, the conditions mean it could easily spread again," Cllr Moriarty said.
Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly also visited the centre last week and said that the hotel was not fit for housing asylum seekers and called for its closure.
Local representatives have also called for an inquiry. Locals in the town marched outside the hotel in a silent protest on Sunday morning, organised to raise awareness of the conditions at the centre and to highlight the concerns of the local community: for themselves, and for the residents forced to live in what they claim are unsuitable conditions in a cramped 56-bedroom hotel.
In a statement to the media, the protest organisers were critical of the Department of Justice and the HSE who both involved in setting up the centre and looking after the residents living there.
"We the community of Cahersiveen feel anxious that no formal communication or reassurance is being provided by the HSE to our community. We sympathise with the residents at the Direct Provision Centre, whom we know are also anxious and fear for their health and safety of not only themselves, but that of their children.
"We the people of Cahersiveen hold the Department of Justice and the HSE accountable for not only threatening the health and well-being of our community, but that of the Asylum Seekers community."
This week, Cahersiveen Chamber and Business alliance have also threatened to close all shops amid concerns that many asylum seekers continue to leave the centre despite the outbreak.
Last week the public health team said that all those who have not come into contact with a confirmed case are subject to the same restrictions as the general public in this regard. This has now changed and The Kerryman understands that residents have been informed they must self-isolate for the required 14 days under public guidelines. Confusion reigns over the communication and management of this information and the restrictions.
The local community feel that all those in the centre should be self-isolating given the close environment in which they live, and given that the number of cases has increased.
Around 98 asylum seekers including men, women and children, were moved to the centre in mid-March, and last week the first four cases of COVID-19 in the centre came to light.
It also emerged that the residents may have come from Dublin hotels where there were COVID-19 concerns, though this has not been clarified.
Further testing took place on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, and now it is understood that there are up to 23 confirmed cases at the time of print.
These numbers have not been confirmed by any government department.
"Both the Department of Justice and Equality and the HSE are committed to protecting the identity and medical confidentiality of residents, as required by law.
"For this reason, neither the Department nor the HSE will give specific information about individuals or locations. The health authorities will only comment on cases or outbreaks of any illness (Covid-19 or otherwise) if there is a public health reason to do so," they said.
In a statement they said that the established procedure across all centres where a person is suspected of having the virus or is confirmed as having the virus is that, where advised by public health officials, they are moved to a dedicated off- site self-isolation facility.
It is understood that at least 14 people have been now moved from the centre, including 10 last Saturday evening on buses. More it is believed were moved yesterday amid much upset among residents. This leaves approximately 79 in the 56-bedroom hotel.