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Coronavirus Afternoon Digest: Calls for construction site closures, and Chinese province out of lockdown - stories you may have missed

There are calls for construction cites to be closed, national mental health and rehabilitation hospitals are lined up to treat coronavirus patients, China begins to come out of lockdown and an Irish kid has garnered respect from some of the world’s top goalkeepers with his self-isolation garden drill. Independent.ie reporters are bringing you the latest coronavirus stories you may have missed this lunchtime.

Trade union calls for the closure of all construction sites to halt spread of COVID-19


Stock photo: Bloomberg

Stock photo: Bloomberg


Stock photo: Bloomberg

Mícheál Ó Scannáil reports

A representative trade union for general workers has called for construction sites to be closed to limit the spready of the coronavirus.

Unite’s National Construction Branch held last an emergency online meeting last night, where it was decided that adequate social distancing measures cannot be maintained on sites during the current COVID-19 emergency.

The trade union has called on the Government to close construction sites throughout the country, subject to a wage compensation scheme such as that proposed by ICTU.

The meeting also called for any wage compensation measures to be extended to so-called ‘bogus self-employed’ workers, to whom a presumption of employment should apply.

Commenting this morning, Unite’s Regional Officer for Construction Tom Fitzgerald said that reports from members indicated that proper social distancing is not, and realistically can not, be observed on construction sites.

“It has become increasingly clear to our members, who work on sites throughout the country, that adequate social distancing cannot be maintained either on site or, in many cases, when travelling to and from sites.

“The result is that approximately 150,000 construction workers are not only themselves susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, but are also at risk of bringing the virus back home to their families and communities – further increasing the strain on our health services.”

National mental health and rehabilitation hospitals lined up as locations to treat coronavirus patients


(stock photo)

(stock photo)

PA Archive/PA Images

(stock photo)

Cormac McQuinn reports

THE new National Mental Health Hospital and an expansion to the National Rehabilitation Hospital are being lined up as locations for treating coronavirus patients.

Both developments are nearing completion and could provide almost 300 beds between them.

Sources confirmed that the new hospitals are among locations with isolation facilities that are being considered to boost health service capacity should it be needed.

The National Forensic Mental Health Service (NFMHS) hospital at Portrane, Co Dublin is due to be operational this summer.

It will ultimately replace the current Central Mental Hospital facility in Dundrum.

But it has the capacity to provide care for 170 patients as and will have an intensive care rehabilitation unit and it is under consideration as a possible location for coronavirus patients.

Sports Direct to close UK stores in u-turn after initially telling employees to work in wake of Boris Johnson’s lockdown

Henry Saker-Clark reports

Sports Direct has said it will close its stores in a major U-turn after initially calling for its workers to continue selling sports and fitness equipment in the face of coronavirus.

Chris Wootton, chief finance officer of owner Frasers Group, said its Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores will not open on Tuesday.

He said in a “clarification” that they will remain shut, despite stating that government policy “excludes bicycle shops from closure”.

Stores will not reopen until “given the go-ahead by the Government”, he added.

The retailer said it is contacting the Government “at all levels” in an attempt to get confirmation from the Prime Minister.

It comes after politicians hit out at the business for its plan to keep stores open after Boris Johnson ordered non-essential shops to close, with Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery telling company majority owner Mike Ashley to “take some responsibility” and “shut up shop”.

The group wrote to all workers within 30 minutes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to shut down non-essential retailers, telling them its position selling sporting and fitness equipment made it a vital asset during a national shutdown.

China lifts lockdown of Hubei province after almost no new coronavirus cases in a week


Workers disinfect a train in preparation for the restoration of public transport in Wuhan (Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua/AP)

Workers disinfect a train in preparation for the restoration of public transport in Wuhan (Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua/AP)

Workers disinfect a train in preparation for the restoration of public transport in Wuhan (Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua/AP)

Independent.ie Newsdesk reports

China will lift restrictions on movement in most areas of Hubei province on Wednesday, ending a lockdown of the area, with a population of 58.5 million, brought on by the coronavirus.

People who are cleared will be able to leave the province after midnight on Tuesday.

Restrictions on the hardest-hit city of Wuhan will remain until April 8.

China barred people from leaving or entering Wuhan and the wider province on January 23 as Covid-19 began spreading to the rest of China and overseas during the Lunar New Year holiday, when many Chinese travel.

Hubei has had almost no new infections for more than a week.

The move to end the lockdown shows the authorities’ apparent faith in the success of the drastic measures in much of China.

After barring people from leaving or entering Wuhan, authorities swiftly expanded what were, at the time, unprecedented measures to most of Hubei and its tens of millions of residents, as well as many other parts of a country with a population of 1.4 billion.

Watch: Irish prodigy praised by world’s best goalkeepers after video of him training in isolation goes viral


Mícheál Ó Scannáil reports

A young Irish boy has garnered the respect of some of the World’s best goalkeepers after a video of him practicing a drill he designed in his garden went viral.

A video was posted of 11 year old Nathan Fanagan practicing his goalkeeping skills while in self-isolation — using the wall in his back garden.

The video, which was posted by his mam has been viewed over 7.6 million times and Nathan has been inundated with messages of support and “a rake of interviews”.

Some of the best goalkeepers to play football came out in praise of Nathan, who is a big Leeds United fan.

Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel called Nathan talented and praised him for continuing to work on his ability.

“Nothing, not even an evil virus” like Covid-19 “should stop a talented goalkeeper from working on getting better”.

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Grace Moloney, Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea and Aston Villa keeper Tom Heaton all praised Nathan, while Watford and England goalkeeper Ben Foster and Manchester United’s Juan Mata offered to train with Nathan when the coronvirus crisis is over.

“What a legend!!!! I don’t know how we’re gonna be able to do it but I’m gonna have to put a training session on for ya!!!! Keep going mate I love it,” Foster said. Mata added, “One day, if he wants, and when all this is over, I would like to practice my free kicks with him on goal! What do you think?”

Online Editors