Weekend of chaos’ – Search continues for two absconded from quarantine while pressure remains on Beacon to oust CEO as vaccine row escalates, FF are on their Knees, no Vision, no Leadership?
Three abscond from quarantine
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly Photo: Julien Behal
March 28 2021 02:30 AM
The State’s Covid-19 response descended into chaos yesterday as a vaccination programme at a hospital was suspended and three people absconded from a mandatory hotel quarantine facility a day after the system came into force.
As the Government prepares to announce this week that tight public health restrictions will need to remain for much of the next two months, two key areas of its response to the virus faltered.
In a dramatic U-turn, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly yesterday directed the HSE to suspend vaccine operations at the Beacon Hospital after revelations that leftover jabs were given to teachers at a private school. The suspension, coming 24 hours after Mr Donnelly said it would be “counterproductive”, means that the 1,000 people a day who were vaccinated at the Beacon will have to be accommodated elsewhere.
The HSE advised members of the public to keep any existing vaccine appointment at the Beacon this week but said other vaccination centres at the Aviva Stadium and City West will now be used instead. “We will scale up capacity in these centres to manage this change in circumstances,” the HSE said.
Mr Donnelly has written to the board of the Beacon asking for an account of any other vaccinations that may have occurred outside of agreed protocols. Creche workers caring for the children of staff at the Beacon Hospital also received jabs from the private hospital earlier this month in addition to 20 teachers at St Gerard’s School in Bray, Co Wicklow, where, it is understood, CEO Michael Cullen’s children attend.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin upped pressure on the board of Beacon Hospital to remove Mr Cullen last night, saying through a spokesman that he “should be held accountable for his actions by the board of The Beacon Hospital”.
Separately, three men, who had arrived on a flight from Dubai, absconded from the new mandatory quarantine facility at The Crowne Plaza Hotel near Dublin Airport while on a smoking break outside.
It is understood that gardai from Ballymun were last night searching in Waterford for one of the men who absconded.
The other missing man is believed to be a Northern Ireland native, meaning he may have already left the jurisdiction.
The third missing man reappeared after a couple of minutes and sources say he may not have fled as he came back voluntarily.
Gardaí were notified that three people had left the hotel yesterday afternoon and attended the scene. The Garda Press Office said: “An Garda Síochána are this afternoon liaising with the State Liaison Officer at a designated quarantine facility in the Dublin area, in accordance with current protocols.”
The Department of Health declined to comment on the incident but said gardaí would investigate any suspected offences and enforce the law.
With the incident happening just over 24 hours after the new system came into force, the refusal of the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána to agree to a permanent garda presence at the facilities is now likely to come under scrutiny.
One Government figure branded yesterday’s events a “weekend of chaos” as Ministers are this weekend preparing to sign off on a minor easing of public health restrictions this week. But the country will remain under tight restrictions throughout April and much of May amid growing concerns about a fourth wave of the virus.
Ministers have encountered strong public anger in recent days over the Beacon hospital revelations. Last night, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Sunday Independent: “This really touched a nerve with people, especially older people and the medically vulnerable, who have been waiting to get their vaccine.
“A response was necessary. It was a clear breach of Government rules and simply should not have happened.
The Sunday Independent understands that Mr Donnelly had wanted to suspend operations when the story first emerged. However, he was cautioned by the HSE that it could be counterproductive to the vaccination programme. However, Mr Donnelly and HSE chief executive Paul Reid spoke at length yesterday and are said to have jointly agreed to suspend operations.
St Gerard’s has declined to comment on the story.