The ESB has confirmed that there has been an outbreak of Covid-19 on the construction site for its new head office on Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin.

It said the main contractor PJ Hegarty had confirmed that four operatives out of a total of 450 operatives are now offsite, having tested positive for Covid-19.

According to the ESB, PJ Hegarty said that three of the four had tested positive over ten days ago, and are due back at work tomorrow, while the fourth is due to return to the site on Thursday.

The ESB also confirmed that one of 300 operatives working for the other main contractor Walls was tested for Covid-19 yesterday, and received a positive diagnosis this morning. That operative is now off site.

The ESB defended the safety procedures on site saying: "A strict regime has been in operation at the site since the start of the pandemic, including the allocation of each operative to a designated work crew, a daily deep-cleaning regime and staggered break times to facilitate social distancing."

It said the contractors were liaising closely with the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority, "and remain vigilant to the health and safety of all those working on the Project Fitzwilliam site".

The 45,000 square metre Project Fitzwilliam development employs over 750 workers across a number of contractors.

Construction should remain open in event of Level 4 or 5, says CIF

Earlier today, the Construction Industry Federation urged the Government to allow it to continue to operate, even if the economy moves to Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the CIF said that any move to level 4 or 5 should be accompanied by a clear indication that construction can remain operational "where it is safe to do so".

"Ambiguity in the past has seen the industry have to cease operations due to safety, contractual and logistical concerns.  As we try to rebuild our economy, this would be in nobody's interest," the CIF said.

The construction lobby group insisted that the industry had demonstrated that it could operate close to capacity "... safely and in a way that protects employees, their families and the wider community".

"Currently across the 1,100 sites, 57,000 enterprise and 147,000 employees, adherence to the CIF's standard operating procedure has been almost total, resulting a negligible level of incidence on sites," the CIF stated.

It noted that each week, the construction industry was generating much-needed revenue for the exchequer, as well as providing employment for hundreds of thousands of people - and stressed that CIF members and their employees were then spending wages and profits within the economy.

It also stated that construction activity meant that houses, hospitals, specialist buildings and other infrastructure that make the economy competitive and attractive to foreign direct investment continue to be built.