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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 0°C
Sasko Lazarov File photo.

'We essentially don't agree with that advice': Dr Holohan 'surprised' at ECDC guidance on air travel

The chief medical officer said the advice was still to avoid non-essential air travel this Christmas season.

CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Dr Tony Holohan has that he was “surprised” by advice issued by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) last week, which suggested that air travel should not be considered a high risk for spreading Covid-19.

“We essentially don’t agree with that advice,” he said, adding that he believes the right public health advice for this country is for people to avoid non-essential air travel this Christmas. 

He also said that questions were set to be raised with the ECDC in this matter.

Dr Holohan was speaking at tonight’s NPHET briefing where a further 242 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed

The position from NPHET has consistently been that people should avoid travelling home for Christmas due to the risk of spreading Covid-19, and this has also been the guidance from the government.

In late November, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said “there is no ban on international travel or people coming home” but that the government is asking people not to make a journey home if they don’t think it is essential. 

“It is a judgement call and it is the individual that is best placed to judge that, I think everyone’s family circumstances are different, I don’t think we can define that,” Transport Minister Eamon Ryan added at the same press briefing.

Ireland is currently operating within the EU-wide traffic lights system for international travel which categories countries as green, orange or red depending on the country’s incidence rate of Covid-19. It has also testing facilities available at airports.

Last Week, the ECDC published details of its new guidelines for Covid-19 testing and quarantine for air travellers.

It said that imported cases of Covid-19 “account for a very small proportion of all detected cases and are unlikely to significantly increase the rate of transmission”. 

It added that “travellers should not be considered as a high-risk population, nor treated as contacts of Covid-19 cases, unless they had been in known contact with a positive confirmed case”.

The ECDC also said that entry screening, quarantine and border closures for incoming travellers are “unlikely to prevent the introduction of Sars-Cov-2 [the virus that causes Covid-19] into a community, although they might delay it for a short period of time”. 

Speaking on Brendan O’Connor on RTÉ Radio One on Saturday, interim Aer Lingus CEO Donal Moriarty referenced the ECDC guidance and said a “narrative has caused people to feel unsafe” and said this narrative “has come out at a policy level”. 

Speaking this evening, Dr Holohan was asked if the ECDC’s guidance on travel between countries of similar virus incidence had merit in it. 

He said: “It’s a sound epidemiological point to make. But we think the right public health advice to be issued for this country isn’t the summary advice in relation to that issue from ECDC last week.

Our advice here is, as we’ve already said, we’re asking people to avoid travel which is non-essential in nature at Christmas even though we understand what a difficult measure that is for people at Christmastime.

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