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Naval Ship LE WB Yeats Berths in Galway for Potential Covid-19 Testing Support

19th March 2020
LE WB Yeats LE WB Yeats Photo: Naval Service

The Naval Service patrol ship LÉ WB Yeats has berthed in Galway for potential use as a testing facility for the Covid-19 virus writes Lorna Siggins

The ship is one of three Naval Service vessels requested for use by the Health Service Executive (HSE), as plans are underway to roll out 34 testing facilities across the State.

The vessel under command of Lieut Cdr Martin Tarrant arrived into Galway docks on Tuesday night and was due to be visited by HSE staff yesterday to conduct a risk assessment.

The LÉ Samuel Beckett has already been deployed to Dublin for similar use, and another ship is on standby in Haulbowline naval base for location in Cork.

Naval Service experience of testing for infectious illnesses during migrant rescue in the Mediterranean influenced the decision to make ships available as support to the HSE.

The Defence Forces Press Office said the ships were deployed “to generate extra capacity for the HSE”, and it was awaiting further instructions.

It is anticipated that arrangements already in place for testing at Dublin’s Croke Park would be simulated, with marquees established onshore and the ships providing logistical support. All three cities have riverside berths which offers ease of access.

The HSE has emphasised that people should not present at the various centres without a scheduled appointment, following referral by GPs if necessary after an initial assessment by phone.

.Those suffering from symptoms of Covid-19 (typically dry cough and fever) should ring their GP who will arrange a test if deemed necessary.

The LE WB Yeats was commissioned in 2016, first deployed to the Mediterranean in 2017, and is twinned with Galway city.

Galway harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan said that the move further emphasised the critical role of ports in providing a response to the current situation.

He confirmed that he and his port pilots and other key staff will be seeking early tests for the virus, being among a group of Port of Galway staff who are key to ensuring supply chains are kept open.

Already, a number of measures have been taken by ports including Galway to comply with World Health Organisation control guidelines for Covid-19 at sea. Capt Sheridan confirmed that one of the measures includes cancelling all shore leave for visiting ships.

Vessels have been asked to supply certification of medical compliance before berthing, and to ensure all areas onboard are thoroughly sanitised.

Communication with pilots who have to board vessels to provide navigation into port must also comply with social distancing measures, he said.

“These measures apply to all our staff – port pilots and crew who have to board ships, dock gatemen, crane drivers – and Port of Galway staff who can work from home are doing so,” Capt Sheridan said.

Shipping schedules will continue as normal, he said. The Port of Galway has also offered a ten-acre property in the city to the HSE for the location of field hospital facilities if required, he said.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Irish Sailing & Boating

Since restrictions began in March 2020, the Government is preparing for a 'controlled and gradual return to sport' and the 2020 sailing fixtures are being tentatively redrafted by yacht clubs, rowing clubs angling and diving clubs across Ireland as the country enters a new phase in dealing with the Coronavirus. The hope is that a COVID-19 restrictions might be eased by May 5th as Sport Ireland has asked national governing bodies for information on the challenges they face. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

To help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) everyone has been asked to stay at home. But some people may need to do more than this.

You may need to either:

You do these things to stop other people from getting coronavirus.

Read advice for people in at-risk groups

Read advice about cocooning.

Restricted movements

Everybody in Ireland has been asked to stay at home. You should only go out for a few reasons, such as shopping for food.

But you need to restrict your movements further if you: 

  • live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus, but you feel well
  • are a close contact of a confirmed case of coronavirus
  • have returned to Ireland from another country

You need to restrict your movements for at least 14 days.

But if the person you live with has had a test and it is negative, you don't need to wait 14 days. You should still follow the advice for everyone - stay at home as much as possible.

Close contact

This is only a guide but close contact can mean:

  • spending more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person
  • living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person

How to restrict your movements 

Follow the advice for everybody - stay at home.

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