An Garda Síochána has again highlighted the high level of public compliance with the Covid-19 regulations and restrictions, which Garda officers have invoked 263 times since they were introduced on April 8 – out of over one million interactions with members of the public.

However, Gardaí have also said that there have now been 80 incidents of members of the public intentionally spitting on or coughing at members of the force. 60 of these cases required the use of anti-spit guards.

The 263 figure includes incidents which resulted in an arrest, and incidents where a person’s details were taken for consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) before a decision to issue a charge was made. Gardaí say that arresting people remains a last resort.

Two of the 263 cases where the Covid-19 regulations were invoked came as a result of a medical professional instructing the Gardaí to take action against the individuals concerned.

66 of the 263 incidents resulted in a charge or court summons. Most incidents involve single individuals, but some concerned more than one person at a time. The remaining 197 cases are currently under criminal investigation.

So far, in the course of Covid-19 checkpoints and other operations related to the virus, 1,752 pre-existing offences were uncovered, including drink-driving; driving while disqualified; drugs and weapons seizures; and public order offences.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris commented: “It is vital that we all keep on playing our part in reducing the spread of Covid-19 by adhering to the updated public health guidelines.

Our priority over the coming weeks will be to ensure this primarily through community engagement at key locations. We also remind people, particularly coming up to the bank holiday weekend, about not travelling to holiday homes or making non-essential journeys.

Speaking about the ‘spitting attacks’ on Gardaí, Commissioner Harris said: “These disgraceful spitting and coughing attacks on Gardaí, while simply carrying out their lawful duties, remains a serious concern for the organisation.

“[We] have the option of using anti-spit guards in very limited circumstances. We have made it clear these anti-spit guards are only to be used as a last resort and in line with the Garda Decision-Making Model, which includes, at its centre, human rights and our code of ethics,” the commissioner added.

The Garda policy on the use of anti-spit guards will be reviewed in September 2020.

From March 12 to May 23, the Garda National Vetting Bureau (GNVB) processed 26,633 vetting applications for Covid-19 related roles, including applications across medical and healthcare roles, and voluntary groups.