Unnecessary foreign travel still 'too big a risk', public health expert warns

Unnecessary foreign travel still 'too big a risk', public health expert warns

THE IRISH public have been advised against any unnecessary travel abroad in a warning that could spell the end for lingering hopes of summer holidays abroad this year. 

It comes after official government figures showed that out of 113 new cases of coronavirus diagnosed in Ireland over the past two weeks, 12 were travel related. 

Speaking on RTE Radio 1,  Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET)'s Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, warned that unnecessary foreign travel is still "too big a risk" in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"We need to remember that the virus is still out there, we need to prioritise, of all the things we can do, what things are most important and when we're doing them, be very careful not to spread the virus,” he said. 

"In other parts of the world, there are quite high levels of the virus in some countries and increasing levels in some countries. 

"Right now this country doesn't need the risk and the burden of bringing cases into the country unnecessarily." 

Professor Nolan added: “11% of all cases [in the past two weeks] were travel-related. And the difficulty with travel-related cases, they can often get into the country and begin to spread before you detect them. 

"It's a particularly dangerous form of introduction of the virus, it spreads quite quickly. 

"We had a lot of travel-related infection early in the pandemic, very little in the middle because restrictions were so tight and for us. 

"This is an early warning sign for the potential for travel-related infection to increase." 

"Certainly from my perspective, right now, unnecessary travel abroad is just too big a risk to be allowed to happen." 

According to Professor Nolan, the travel-related infections reported in Ireland came from people travelling into the country from US, European Union and Middle East. 

He also urged caution on the idea of developing “air bridges” with other countries. 

"I think it's very important that the European Union works together, cautiously. We do want to increase the amount of travel over time that can occur across Europe but it does need to be a collective effort. 

"We need to be very clear on the criteria, we need to be very clear on the data across countries that tells us what's safe and what's not safe and also I think we need to prioritise. 

"Just because we can do something now doesn't mean we should do it. 

"All movement, all contact carries some risk of transmitting the virus so we as individual citizens need to think about what's important to us." 

The comments echo those of Chief Medical Officer who previously expressed concern about the impact of travel on the spread of the disease.  

Dr Holohan went as far as to suggest 2020 was "a year for a staycation" and called on people across Ireland to stay within the Emerald Isle, spend locally and adhere to public health advice.