Calls for mobile Covid-19 testing unit for homeless

ireland
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Sarah Slater

A Covid-19 mobile testing unit for the homeless is urgently needed an awareness advocate is urging.

Less than one quarter of homeless people in Dublin have been tested for the virus despite two deaths and 72 confirmed cases at the end of September.

Former Lord Mayor Independent councillor and homelessness awareness advocate Christy Burke said that a Covid-19 mobile testing unit or dedicated centre for testing needs to be prioritised.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) has revealed that since the start of the pandemic, more than 1,000 people accessing emergency accommodation or sleeping rough have been tested for the virus.

According to a report compiled by the Homeless Executive, the number of people testing positive has remained low but more than 3,000 have not been tested.

Figures from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Homelessness from the end of September show that there were 4,251 homeless people in Dublin while there were 6,071 people nationwide.

Three-pronged approach

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Cllr Burke said many homeless people do not know how to go about getting a test and so they are being left behind.

“There needs to be a three-pronged approach from the Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, HSE chief executive Paul Reid and Dublin City Council’s manager Owen Keegan to work together to prioritise testing for the homeless.

“We know of two deaths, but the question has to be asked how many of the more than 50 deaths of homeless people so far this year are from Covid-19?”

Cllr Burke said the investigation announced by the Homeless Executive and the HSE should also focus on Covid-19.

“The people are some of the most vulnerable in our society and it doesn’t take a degree or terms of reference to know that dedicated testing is needed for the homeless.

A recent study published in the British medical publication, The Lancet, found that people experiencing homelessness are more vulnerable to the risk of contracting Covid-19 due to use of shared accommodation and high rates of pre-existing conditions.

'Robust system'

Eileen Gleeson, director of the Homeless Executive defended virus testing saying there is a “robust system in place to deal with all suspected or confirmed cases that occur within homeless services in the Dublin region”.

Ms Gleeson added that this includes a dedicated homeless testing service, referral and transportation to isolation facilities where required.

“When a suspected case is identified, this system is immediately triggered, along with contact tracing and a general audit of any other risks to public health in the facility that need to be managed,” she said.

“We work closely and very regularly with the HSE on Covid-19 issues and we very much value their ongoing strong support.”

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