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27 soldiers placed in isolation at Athlone barracks after one is diagnosed positive

'Precautionary' measures in place once member was tested after return to work

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Members of the Defence Forces at a Covid testing tent on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin in March

Members of the Defence Forces at a Covid testing tent on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin in March

On a training exercise

On a training exercise

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Members of the Defence Forces at a Covid testing tent on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin in March

Almost 30 soldiers at an Army barracks in Co Westmeath were placed in isolation after a Defence Forces member tested positive for Covid-19.

The precautionary measure was taken at the Custume Barracks in Athlone, last week and led to 27 personnel being placed into isolation.

Sources said that a Defence Forces member had returned to work before later testing positive for the virus.

Guidelines

"He went back to the barracks and was later informed that he had in fact tested positive for Covid-19.

"The person in question had been in the barracks and this resulted in 27 of his colleagues being put into isolation because they had been in close contact with him.

"The Defence Forces have strict guidelines on its procedures around Covid-19 but unfortunately on this occasion there was a confirmed case resulting in others being isolated," the source added.

Following the confirmed case military officers re-informed its members across the organisation of the guidelines in place for personnel who display symptoms for the virus.

Strict guidelines issued by the Defence Forces state that personnel who believe they are displaying Covid-19 symptoms should stay at home or in their place of accommodation and seek medical advice.

Personnel are also advised not to attend at a military medical facility to reduce the potential risk of infecting others.

They are also obliged to inform their unit headquarters and supply any supporting documentation.

Among the services based at the Custume Barracks in Athlone is the Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS), an air ambulance service operated by the Defence Forces, which has been working out of the barracks since 2013.

A spokesman said that the "Defence Forces does not comment on individual cases and continues to strictly adhere to all HSE and government Covid-19 guidelines".

The spokesman did not respond to specific questions about whether last week's incident impacted on the service of the EAS.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Defence Forces has been helping in various areas, including testing, contact tracing as well as collecting personal protective equipment.

Assistance

In March, patrol ships from the Naval Service were deployed to Dublin, Cork and Galway to assist with testing, while test centres involving Defence Force members were also introduced at GAA facilities including Croke Park and Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

By June over €10m had been spent to help the organisation in its fight against the pandemic with €5.2m spent on the acquisition of new aircraft and €4.2m on additional medical, engineering, building, and transport costs across the Army, naval service as well as the Air Corps.

More than one million had also been spent on additional allowance payments and a further €400,000 on civil defence.

Herald