Tipperary County Council chief executive Joe MacGrath
“We are now in the most difficult and challenging stage of the pandemic," chief executive Joe MacGrath told Monday’s monthly meeting of Tipperary County Council.
Mr MacGrath said it has been a “very, very difficult” start to 2021.
He said the health system is under “extreme pressure”, outlining that the Council is doing everything it can to assist the HSE.
"We need to make sure everyone is safe,” Mr MacGrath said.
"The number of cases and hospitalisations continue to rise, and transmission is at its highest. That brings home the importance of complying with public health advice. We need to reduce our mobility and keep our number of contacts to a minimum," Mr MacGrath continued.
Mr MacGrath said the Council is remaining calm, considered, consistent and conscious of the role everyone must play to deliver its services.
Effective since Monday, the Council has further restricted its services amid the surge in Covid-19 cases.
Access to all Council offices has been restricted to an appointment-based service where considered necessary and offices are closed to walk-in services. Access to all essential services can be made by phone, post, email and on the Council's website.
Mr McGrath said the measures being taken by the Council are “critical” to ensuring the continued delivery of services. He said Covid-19 cases in Tipperary have increased “exponentially” over the past month, which is a “huge concern”.
“Actions taken by Tipperary County Council are being guided by the absolute priority of protecting the health and safety of our staff, elected representatives and the members of the public that interact with us. These actions are being taken to give an assurance that we will continue to deliver essential services to the public and communities of Tipperary,” he said.
“We are taking these actions to rid ourselves and our communities of this disease so that we can return to brighter, better days,” he added.
COUNCIL COVID CASES
The Council’s Crisis Management Team, which is chaired by Mr MacGrath, and the Covid-19 Response Team, which is chaired by director of services Karl Cashen, are managing the Council’s response to the pandemic.
This Tuesday the Covid-19 Response Team will meet for the 75th time in the space of 10 months to examine the latest advice issued on a national level.
Mr Cashen said 28 Council staff members have contracted Covid-19, with most of them asymptomatic, and 255 staff members have had to self-isolate or restrict their movements.
"Thankfully all our staff are healthy. We still have a number of staff out that are infected, but thankfully nothing too serious in relative terms," Mr Cashen said.
He said 25% of staff are working full-time at home, 25% full-time remotely, and 50% are working a hybrid arrangement consisting of both office and remote working. “The default position is that staff should work remotely unless it's absolutely necessary that they come into the offices,” he said.
Mr Cashen said the Council offices are a “safe place of work”, highlighting that protocols are in place including wearing face masks when working in an office with others and when leaving the office. The only times staff don't have to wear face masks is when working in an office on their own and when in the canteen, he said.
"We have been planning for major emergencies for over 30 years, but we have never envisaged anything like this," he said.
"The arrangements we have in place have worked quite well in response to this particular pandemic," he added.