Site shutdowns prompted by health and safety legislation, lawyer says

By Tom Lowe27 March 2020

hse

Health and Safety Act trumps government advice, Fenwick Elliott partner adds

This week’s widespread shutdown of building sites across the UK has probably triggered by contractors realising their insurance does not cover claims for breaches of health and safety law, a leading construction lawyer has said.

Jon Miller, a partner at law firm Fenwick Elliott, said firms were more concerned with complying with the Health And Safety At Work Act than the government’s social distancing advice to keep sites open as long as workers could keep 2m apart at all times.

https://www.building.co.uk/news/site-shutdowns-prompted-by-health-and-safety-legislation-lawyer-says/5105225.article

Latest updates on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Published: 28 March 2020
From: Department of Health

March 27

People urged not to leave their homes

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Health, Simon Harris, have issued strict guidelines for people to stay at home from midnight tonight (Friday).

The main rule is to STAY AT HOME. The only times you can leave your home are:

  • to travel to or from work if you are providing an essential service. [external-link https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/625292-updated-list-of-essential-retail-outlets-27th-march-2020/ | The full list of essential retail services is available here. A full list of essential workers will be published on Saturday morning]
  • to shop for food
  • to collect medical prescriptions and medical supplies and attend medical appointments
  • to carry out vital services like caring (including family carers)
  • for brief individual exercise – within 2 kilometres of your house. (You can bring children but must keep 2 metres away from others for social distancing)
  • for farming

Read more

3 deaths and 302 cases confirmed

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has today been informed that an additional three patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in Ireland have died. One person in the north-west of the country and two females in the east.

There have now been 22 COVID-19 related deaths in Ireland.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has been informed of 302 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ireland.

There are now 2,121 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ireland.

Read more

Health and Safety Authority.

With the schools closed and children at home, it’s vital that parents keep children safe and away from the dangerous areas on farms. Lots of useful guidance at https://www.hsa.ie/!AJNC5W Irish Farmers’ Association Teagasc ICMSA Macra na Feirme Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Irish Rural Link Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2806617146040533&id=109255715776703

Latest Guidance on Public Health Measures

Published: 24 March 2020
From: Department of the Taoiseach

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has recommended that all non-essential retail outlets close to members of the public. All other retail outlets are to implement social distancing.

Cafés and restaurants are limited to takeaways and deliveries only. All sporting events are cancelled – including those behind closed doors.

All theatres, clubs, gyms, leisure centres and hair salons are to be shut.

Places of worship are to restrict numbers visiting and no unnecessary travel should take place in the country or overseas, now or during the Easter break.

The Taoiseach said people need to stay at home and only leave to:

  • go to work
  • go to the shops for essential supplies
  • care for others
  • exercise

Read more at www.gov.ie

COVID 19 – Advice for Employers

https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_events_media/news/news_and_articles/covid_19_%E2%80%93_advice_for_employers.html

The outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has evolved rapidly.  The Department of Health is leading the government response in Ireland to this national public health risk and is providing up to date information and advice on its website at:

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre HPSC is also providing advice for the public and for specific groups and settings including employers, healthcare professionals, education settings and religious settings.

Exposure to COVID-19 may present a health risk to workers and other persons at a workplace. Therefore, employers are required to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that an appropriate assessment of the risk for COVID-19 in their workplace is carried out. Suitable control measures should be identified and implemented to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infection. These measures should be communicated to all relevant employees and others at the place of work. 

Control measures will depend on the level of risk and type of workplace. For example, in workplaces where COVID-19 presents an occupational exposure hazard such as healthcare establishments, testing laboratories, immigration control etc., detailed biological agents risk assessments are required. These will need regular review and updating and will be based on current best practice in relation to infection prevention and control. Further information on employer duties under the Biological Agents Regulations is available here on the HSA website.

For other workplaces where there is a lower potential for exposure to COVID-19, employers should take into account the most up to date official advice and guidance from the Department of Health and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on how to mitigate the health risk to employees and others at the place of work. This should also include measures advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for work related travel.

Employees should follow the public health official advice and guidance including ensuring good hygiene practices, such as frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette, to protect against infections and should seek professional healthcare advice if unwell.  The following video clip provides some useful advice:

For further advice see the HSA website at: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_events_media/news/news_and_articles/covid_19_%E2%80%93_advice_for_employers.html

Fianna Fáil’s O’Callaghan supports national govt idea

By Sandra Hurley

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan has said that Fianna Fáil may have been too definitive in ruling out a government with Sinn Féin and said he would “go along” with the idea of a national government to deal with the coronavirus. 

Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon insisted a functioning government was in place and that there were daily meetings of the emergency committee dealing with coronavirus.

He said the Taoiseach would have no issue in talking to other leaders and there was already full dialogue between the Minister for Health and other health spokespeople. 

He also said that the Cabinet sub-committee dealing with Covid-19 would meet tomorrow to sign off on sick pay proposals and if emergency legislation was needed, the Dáil would reconvene.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said that nobody regarded the current “caretaker government” as the real government and she said she expected it would listen carefully to proposals from employers’ body Ibec and the Construction Industry Federation on sick pay plans.

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said there was an information deficit and party leaders needed to be called in to be involved in the information process and to understand the criteria for deciding on cancelling mass gatherings.

Read full article at:
https://www.rte.ie/news/politics/2020/0308/1120949-government-formation/

WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 5 March 2020

Good afternoon, and thank you once again for joining us in person and online. 

Today I want to start by saying thank you to all our colleagues in the media. As providers of information, you play a vital role in the response to COVID-19. 

The fight against rumours and misinformation is a vital part of the battle against this virus. We rely on you to make sure people have accurate information about the threat they face, and how to protect themselves and others. 

Now to the numbers. 

There is now a total of 95,265 reported cases of COVID-19 globally, and 3281 deaths. 

In the past 24 hours, China reported 143 cases. Most cases continue to be reported from Hubei province, and 8 provinces have not reported any cases in the last 14 days. 

Outside China, 2055 cases were reported in 33 countries. Around 80% of those cases continue to come from just three countries. 

We see encouraging signs from the Republic of Korea. The number of newly-reported cases appears to be declining, and the cases that are being reported are being identified primarily from known clusters. 

Although a few countries are reporting large numbers of cases, 115 countries have not reported any cases. 

21 countries have reported only one case. 

And 5 countries that had reported cases have not reported new cases in the past 14 days. 

The experience of these countries and of China continues to demonstrate that this is not a one-way street. 

This epidemic can be pushed back, but only with a collective, coordinated and comprehensive approach that engages the entire machinery of government. 

We are calling on every country to act with speed, scale and clear-minded determination. 

Although we continue to see the majority of cases in a handful of countries, we are deeply concerned about the increasing number of countries reporting cases, especially those with weaker health systems. 

However, this epidemic is a threat for every country, rich and poor. As we have said before, even high-income countries should expect surprises. The solution is aggressive preparedness. 

We’re concerned that some countries have either not taken this seriously enough, or have decided there’s nothing they can do. 

We are concerned that in some countries the level of political commitment and the actions that demonstrate that commitment do not match the level of the threat we all face. 

This is not a drill. 

This is not the time to give up. 

This is not a time for excuses. 

This is a time for pulling out all the stops.

Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans.

These are plans that start with leadership from the top, coordinating every part of government, not just the health ministry – security, diplomacy, finance, commerce, transport, trade, information and more – the whole government should be involved.

Activate your emergency plans through that whole-government approach.

Educate your public, so that people know what the symptoms are and know how to protect themselves and others.

Increase your testing capacity.

Get your hospitals ready.

Ensure essential supplies are available.

Train your health workers to identify cases, provide careful and compassionate treatment, and protect themselves from infection.

If countries act aggressively to find, isolate and treat cases, and to trace every contact, they can change the trajectory of this epidemic.

If we take the approach that there’s nothing we can do, that will quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s in our hands.

WHO has published step-by-step guidelines for countries to develop their national action plans according to eight key areas, which are supported by detailed technical guidance.

We call on all countries to accelerate those plans, and we stand ready to work with them to do that.

More funding is being made available to support countries that need it, and that have plans in place.

As you know, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have both made funds available to stabilize health systems and mitigate the economic consequences of the epidemic, with a special focus on enabling access to critical supplies and equipment.

I had also a very fruitful discussion with the President of the African Development Bank.

This is funding that is available now to countries who need it, in line with WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

These funds are essential for supporting the response now, but also for long-term preparedness.

Although COVID-19 presents an acute threat now, it is absolutely essential that countries do not lose this opportunity to strengthen their preparedness systems.

We know people are afraid, and that’s normal and appropriate.

That fear can be managed and moderated with accurate information. Today WHO has launched a new social media campaign called Be Ready for COVID-19, which urges people to be safe, smart and informed.

If you feel overwhelmed by fear, reach out to those around you. Find out what your community’s emergency response plans are, how you fit in and how you can help. 

There’s still a lot we don’t know, but every day we’re learning more, and we’re working around the clock to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. 

Ultimately, how deadly this virus will be depends not only on the virus itself, but on how we respond to it. 

This is a serious disease. It is not deadly to most people, but it can kill. 

We’re all responsible for reducing our own risk of infection, and if we’re infected, for reducing our risk of infecting others.

There’s something all of us can do to protect vulnerable people in our communities.

That’s why we keep talking about solidarity. 

This is not just a threat for individual people, or individual countries.

We’re all in this together, and we can only save lives together.

I thank you.

RTE News Reports

Twitter and Google ask staff to work from home over virus fears

Twitter staff across the world were asked to work from home in an effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus epidemic. 

The social media platform’s decision to ask its staff to avoid the office follows similar requests by governments in virus hotspots. 

“We are strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able,” Twitter human resources chief Jennifer Christie said in a blog post. 

“Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus for us – and the world around us.” 

Meanwhile, the majority of Google’s 8,000 staff and contractors in Ireland have been told to work from home today after a member of staff reported flu-like symptoms.

Google said that while it is thought unlikely that the worker has the coronavirus, it is understood that the company decided to use the opportunity to test its capacity to have all staff work remotely in case the situation surrounding Covid-19 escalates.

Read full story at : https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2020/0303/1119844-twitter-staff-working-from-home/