IRELAND needs to completely seal its borders as soon as possible to avoid facing repeated lockdowns for the next the 12 months, according to an Irish health expert.
Microbiologist Professor James McInerney, of the University of Nottingham, has warned that unless the country introduces rigorous quarantine measures and strict border controls, it will remain in lockdown for the rest of the year, and possibly into 2022.
"It was obvious that Ireland needed to adopt the New Zealand approach and seal its borders," Prof McInerney told RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland.
"There were ways of quarantining and making sure that people arriving into the country did not bring the virus with them," he said.
Earlier today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar dismissed the idea of imposing mandatory quarantine measures in Ireland for incoming passengers, saying such a move would be "unworkable".
But unless something is done to slow the spread of the new variants currently sweeping around the world, the situation may remain bleak for some time.
Prof McInerney noted that in December he was being asked whether the UK variant had made it to Ireland, and fast-forward just over a month, it's the main variant in the country.
"That's how quickly it can spread," he said.
The new variants, including one from South Africa, and another from Brazil, are understood to spread more easily than the original strain of Covid-19, and in some cases could be up to 70% more transmissible.
Vaccines remain the best way to fight the virus though, and thankfully, recent research from BioNTech suggests that their vaccine (Pfizer) is just as effective against the mutant strains of Covid-19 as it as against the original form of the virus.