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Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie
Flights

10% of new Covid-19 cases now linked to international travel

Advice against travelling overseas for non-essential reasons is to end tomorrow with the rollout of the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

COVID-19 CASES linked to international travel now account for around 10% of all new infections.

Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE’s national lead for testing and tracing told Newstalk’s On The Record this afternoon that an increased number of people are presenting with a recent travel history, “particularly from some of the holiday locations in Europe”.

“We have also got about 10% of cases that would have travel history”, she said.

Public health advice regarding international travel is due to change tomorrow, when the EU Digital Covid Certificate is formally rolled out. Up to now, people have been advised not to travel outside Ireland for non-essential reasons such as holidays.

Friday was one of the busiest days for testing, O’Beirne said.

“Testing is around the country has been really busy and Friday was one of the busiest days with over 15,000 tests done across the community testing sites.

“Testing started to increase a number of weeks ago, and it hasn’t increased at the same level of cases. What’s happening at the moment is, we’re having higher levels of positivity on the tests that do run through the centres than too much more testing. And some of the days of the week, particularly the weekends, are busier than they historically have been, but we have seen in the past that kind of level of 15,000 per day, and the sites are comfortable to cover that – it’s a high level of testing but it’s within the capacity.”

It is anticipated that antigen testing – which Ireland has been slow to implement compared to other European countries – will be used for close contacts of positive cases, she added, but PCR tests will be used “as far as we can until, until the demand exceeds what we have as supply”.

Antigen testing is currently used “as required in acute hospitals” and in meat plants.

“What we intend to use it for here is for close contacts. So that’s kind of like an outbreak because often close contacts, are household contacts, and you do have a much higher likelihood of being positive if you’re a close contact, other than being otherwise asymptomatic.”

Close contacts must get a PCR test on “day zero” of being deemed a close contact, and on day 10. If both tests are negative, the person no longer has to restrict their movements.

For antigen testing, close contacts are tested four times on days zero, five, seven and 10. If any of the antigen tests are positive, the person must get a PCR test.

“If all four of those are not detected, then they will release the release from restricting their movements”, O’Beirne said.

Asked whether the HSE was confident that members of the public would be able to use home testing kits correctly, she said: “We are quite confident, because the new tests are quite easy to use. And these are newly regulated for home use, which just makes them simpler to use.”

“We also learned from other countries [that] the more they’re used, the more people get used to using them.”

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