- 01 Aug 20
With the number of cases there now exceeding 20, Hot Press has spoken to two residents of the Eyre Powell Hotel, which now doubles as Newbridge Direct Provision Centre. The picture, it emerges, is far from reassuring…
The number of asylum seekers who have tested positive for coronavirus in a Direct Provision Centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare, has increased to over 20 people, Hot Press has been told.
The recent outbreak of the infection was identified at Eyre Powell Hotel in Newbridge eight days ago, when two residents at the centre became ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The individuals were employees of an Irish Dog Food Plant in nearby Naas, where an outbreak of the virus led to its temporary closure on Wednesday.
Meat plant workers, many of whom are from Eastern Europe, or asylum seekers on temporary work-permits, often lead a communal home life, while also working in a congregated work setting. These arrangements have made them increasingly susceptible to contracting the virus.
The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the precarious nature of their lives, and their livelihoods. Over 1,000 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Irish meat plants so far.
A small county with a population of just over 222,500, Kildare has reported 24 cases of coronavirus over the past two weeks – though this may now be considerably higher, following the confirmation of 85 new cases on Thursday. The town of Newbridge, which has a community of over 22,000, is the county's largest town.
A Wise Move
Hot Press understands that to contain the Newbridge outbreak, Eyre Powell Hotel is removing residents from the centre to pave way for a deep-cleaning procedure – though the exact extent of the disruption to residents remains unclear.
Residents have told us that they are being gradually transferred to an offsite self-isolation facility in Citywest, Co Dublin, regardless of their test results.
Speaking to Hot Press from Citywest, a resident who had tested negative, said that he was also removed from the centre, adding his opinion that it was a wise, preventative move.
"They are taking out everyone,” we were told. “Even us negatives, so that they can disinfect the place and clean all the rooms."
He continued that he believed that it would be unwise for people to return to Eyre Powell Hotel in Newbridge, even after the two-weeks self-isolation period ends, stating that it is difficult to maintain social-distancing at the centre.
“We still need a wider space to breathe,” he said, “like, after these two weeks isolation, we’re getting back to the same narrow corridors and live in rooms with more than two people. That’s not good.”
Eyre Powell Hotel, a four-story building, houses in the region of 120 asylum seekers in Newbridge.
No Evacuation Planned
Responding to Hot Press, however, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that no ‘evacuation’ was planned for Midland Direct Provision Centres.
“As confirmed by the NPHET, a number of our Accommodation Centres in the Midlands have experienced cases of Covid-19 which were linked to an outbreak in Kildare,” the spokesperson said. “None of our centres have been ‘evacuated’.”
The Department’s representative said that all affected centres are being “cleaned rigorously” with a sharp focus on “communal areas, lifts and door handles.”
“Further advice on enhanced cleaning regimes have been provided by a Public Health infection control specialist,” the spokesperson added. “Translations of public health advice have been provided and residents are encouraged to follow the HSE advice.
“The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) has been supporting the Health Response and all cases are in the process of being either moved off site or are self-isolating in accordance with advice received from Public Health officials.”
Sick After Three Days
A 65-year-old resident, who is also self-isolating at Citywest, following a positive test for Covid-19, said he became ill, within four days of arriving in the Newbridge centre.
The individual had been transferred from Balseskin Direct Provision Centre in Co. Dublin, to the Kildare-based centre, last week.
The man sounded frail. But he was also furious at the way he had been treated. Explaining that he had a pre-existing medical condition, he said that he had to share space with two other asylum seekers in a small room during his short time at Eyre Powell Hotel.
“When I went to Newbridge, I knew the conditions there was hazardous,” he said. “I told reception that I don’t feel safe sharing a room with two other people, but they didn’t care about my concerns.
"After spending three nights there, I started coughing and coughing and coughing. I got so sick that I had to call an ambulance for myself.
“They don’t value human life,” he claimed about the asylum seeker system.
Although it is generally assumed that there is a longer incubation time for the coronavirus, the man said he had little doubt that he had contracted the it in the new centre, as there have been no reports of an outbreak in his former accommodation.
“I am 100 per cent sure that I have got it there after sharing a small room with two other people.”
Responding to Hot Press’s query about the accuracy of the man’s statement, management at Eyre Powell Hotel said the question must be redirected to the Department of Justice.