Welcome to our resource page for COVID-19. We will update this page regularly as new information or advice relevant to community groups comes to hand.
13 March 2020
I am writing to you in connection with COVID-19, and particularly the latest Government advice.
Firstly I want to assure you that Muintir na Tíre is actively working to do everything in our power to mitigate the consequences of this pandemic. The Department of Rural and Community Development has formed an advisory group titled the “Advisory Group on Community Response to needs of vulnerable people.” This recognises that the primary health services may not cope alone with the expected fallout, and that community assistance will be vital. Muintir has been appointed to this body and we are currently liaising with other organisations to present a co-ordinated approach. We will update you on this in the coming days.
Secondly I want to assure you that our Head Office and our Development Officers remain available to provide any help or support that we can. With over 1,400 groups, and an average membership of just over 200, Community Alert is present in most communities in Ireland. As well as Crime Prevention, one of the main aims of Community Alert is Community Safety. Therefore Community Alert Groups are essential in providing a community response. However, we realise that in asking groups to respond, they must also be given support and coherent advice.
We are receiving many contacts looking for advice, and thought the following might be a useful starting point.
Should we hold meetings?
As you probably know, the Government has advised that meetings of over 100 people should be postponed. This is larger than the average Community Alert meeting. However, many groups are being pro-active and postponing any meetings which are not essential at this time. This is particularly important given the age profile of many Community Alert groups.
How can we organise instead?
Obviously if groups are to assist their communities, some form of communication is needed. Groups who are already well organised may be able to use existing structures and simply telephone members. However, other groups may need more consultation. There are several tools which may help.
Firstly there are free video conferencing tools such as Skype and Zoom. These do require a video device such as a laptop or smartphone. If these are not widely used in your community, you could consider a conference call facility. One such example is www.conference365instant.ie. These services typically do not have an overall cost, but each caller pays a premium rate (eg 30 cent per minute). There are several other similar providers.
For groups already using our Cairde mobile app (www.cairdeapp.ie), it provides the ideal community messaging tool. Many communities are using this to organise lifts, grocery drops, prescription collections, etc. The free panic button feature is also particularly useful.
Finally, if your group uses Community Text Alert, this can be used to quickly get a message to the community, with vital details such as a contact telephone number. If your group uses the Muintir BeAlert system, but usage has lapsed, simply contact our Head Office and we will assist you to get it up and running again.
Can we call house to house?
This will involve careful consideration by your group. Social distancing is a key element of the Government response, but we also need to avoid social isolation where possible. Much of the contact and reassurance can be done by telephone. However there will be cases where a visit is necessary. You should consider the following:
• Where delivering supplies to a person in self-isolation, they can be left on a doorstep.
• Where the person has no symptoms and is not in self-isolation, visits could take place but the recommended practice should be followed. This involves keeping a distance of at least 2 metres, minimising contact time (eg 15 minutes), not shaking hands, and frequent hand washing. Further advice can be found on the HSE website (https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html).
• You should also consider the underlying vulnerability (age and medical condition) of the person making the visit and minimise this exposure.
We will post regular updates on our website (www.muintir.ie).
Contact details for Development Officers for each county are available at https://www.muintir.ie/about-us/contact/community-alert-development-officers/
Or you can contact our Head Office at 062 51163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be back in contact shortly as the situation, and our response, evolves. In the meantime I wish you, and your communities, a safe time.
Muintir na Tíre