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Laois Cathaoirleach poses eight questions to Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Laois lockdown

The Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, with the backing of her fellow Laois Councillors, has written a letter to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre asking eight questions about the current lockdown imposed on Laois.

Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald, who chaired yesterday’s emergency meeting of Laois County Council at the Dunamase Arts Centre, proposed that the council write to the state body to seek clarity on a number of issues relating to the restrictions that were imposed on Laois on Friday night.

Cllr Fitzgerald said: “It goes without saying that the people of Laois are always ready and willing and want to play their part in complying with any public health requirements and I as Cathaorleach of Laois County Council together with the elected members and staff will 100% comply with all public health regulations as we believe that public health is paramount.

“As public representatives, we feel it our duty to seek an explanation regarding the imposition of the current restrictions. Could the current situation have been prevented and how we manage our county going forward?

“At the outset, I want to point out that there is a tradition of nursing in my family and I want to take this opportunity to thank all in our hospitals, nursing homes and front line services who have worked tirelessly and selflessly over the last number of months. It is all the more reason why we need answers

“It is commonly acknowledged that these incredible blunt measures that have been imposed on us in Laois are in relation to meat plants and the deplorable living arrangement for some of the people working in them.”

The following are the eight questions that have been sent:

1 – A detailed sequence of events commencing from the 1st June 2020 outlining all relevant details including the dates of all positive cases in each of the four factories concerned broken down over the three counties and the dates on which the relevant organizations became aware of same.

2 – The community transmission rate in Laois as of today’s date.

3 – The number of people from Laois that are currently accommodated in the HSE self isolation facility at City West or any other similar location.

4 – The latest information available from www.gov.ie indicates that the rate of community transmission is 30.9%. It is possible to provide the rate for Laois together with the non-community rate for the County.

5 – The number of clusters which have been identified in Laois and what additional protective measures were taken to combat the virus in same. Please also advise as to the success of such measures and the timeframe pertaining to same.

6 – The number of inspections, both announced and unannounced that were carried out in the meat plants in question and the number of tests carried out.

7 – In relation to the restrictions that have been imposed, was consideration given to deferring the implementation of same to minimize the effects on certain sectors of the community.

8 – Having regard to the numbers reported on Monday for Laois, i.e. nil, can consideration be given to lifting the restrictions in relation to Laois at an earlier date.

Cllr Fitzgerald added: “I understand the Minister has announced revised testing regimes in meat plants but we in Laois feel that it is too little too late for us as the horse has bolted and as the old saying goes – prevention is better than cure and instead of being proactive we are now reacting to the serious situation within our county.

“I and the elected members on behalf of the people of Laois demand that more should have been done to prevent this outbreak and to protect our community.”

A motion reading ‘That Laois County Council request all the relevant government departments, including the Departments of Finance, Agriculture, Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Business Enterprise and Innovation and Community and Rural Development to make all appropriate supports and measure available to Laois in order to ensure that our community is fully supported both at this time and going forward’, was also passed.

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.