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CMO dismisses O'Leary claim that quarantine for overseas visitors has 'no basis in science or health'

Michael O’Leary called for the government to halt the new regulation.

Updated May 27th 2020, 8:20 PM

THE CHIEF MEDICAL Officer has refuted claims made by Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary about the introduction of a mandatory quarantine on overseas visitors.

This morning, O’Leary called for the government to halt this new regulation, saying it has “no basis in science or in health”. 

When asked at today’s Covid-19 briefing about whether that was true, CMO Dr Tony Holohan said: “No.” 

O’Leary also accused the government of imposing the “most stringent” lockdown restrictions of any European country, and said Ireland was “being overly conservative” in its approach to Covid-19.

When asked this evening whether this was correct, Dr Holohan said: “No”. 

Overseas visitors arriving in Ireland will be asked to fill out locator forms with their details and then will be told to stay at home for 14 days of isolation. 

Holohan said the intention is to provide a means through which to follow-up with passengers if required. 

Ryanair has said it will start operating almost 1,000 flights a day from 1 July and will put a number of health measures in place, including the requirement for all passengers to wear face masks.

“We can and should do more – it’s time to get the economy moving,” O’Leary told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

We’re requiring people to quarantine if you come in from countries that have performed better than Ireland, but no quarantine if you come from the country that’s performed worst.
The concept of quarantine is completely ineffective if you don’t quarantine people at the airport.

This evening Dr Holohan said health officials are asking people in Ireland to avoid non-essential travel and to avoid making arrangements for non-essential trips outside the country. 

He said he would be concerned if people in large numbers were to ignore any of the advice provided by health officials, but added that this has not been the experience in Ireland so far. 

‘Vested interest’

Speaking on Today with Sarah McInerney, Dr Gabriel Scally said he did not understand O’Leary’s claim that the measures have no basis in science.

He also noted that evidence was clear from elsewhere in the world that quarantine measures “absolutely spot on”.

“I really don’t think that Michael O’Leary is a good source of public health advice on the effectiveness or not of quarantine,” he said. “I think he might have a vested interest.”

Scally also noted that although guidance for air travel laid out information about wearing face masks and socially distancing, it was “completely silent” about the need to quarantine.

“You only have to look at the success of other islands – Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan – to see how exactly quarantine can work,” he said.

“Particularly when you get to the situation, as Ireland is close to, when there are very very few new cases. The last thing you want to do is start an import line of bringing in new cases from elsewhere.”

His comments followed those of the HSE’s chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry, who advised against flying.

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He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “We should take great care before we jump in and reverse those significant gains we have made since March in bending and smashing that curve.”

“At this point in time we would not be advising people to fly.”

Health Minister Simon Harris tweeted this morning: “The public health advice is to avoid all non-essential travel off the island currently – that’s what our doctors are telling us in the interests of our health.”

With reporting from Stephen McDermott and Michelle Hennessy. 

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