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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Shutterstock/Peter Krocka
# Travel
Stricter tracing of international travellers needed in Ireland to avoid spread of new strain, senator says
Several countries have placed a flight ban on the UK over fears of a new coronavirus variant.

INTERNATIONAL PASSENGERS ARRIVING in Ireland should be closely monitored to avoid the spread of a new coronavirus strain in Ireland, a senator has said.

Sinn Féin Senator Linn Boylan has said that the government should implement a stricter tracking and tracing system for people coming into Ireland to curb the onset of a new coronavirus variant.

A new strain of coronavirus has been identified in parts of England, Scotland and Wales, with some European countries choosing this morning to stop flights from the UK.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week in Politics, Boylan said that  “what we need instead of a flight ban, we need to fix what we haven’t done throughout the whole pandemic which is monitoring people coming into the country”.

Boyland said we need to have a “proper contact tracing and testing taking place” instead of relying on people to fill in a locator form and “do do the right thing”.

“I think we need to have a system where people are going to restrict their movements and they are followed up to ensure that that is happening,” Boylan said.

“That would help to address some of the issues around people coming in, because it is a huge concern for people coming home now for Britain over Christmas and if they are carrying that strain,” she said.

“It is really concerning, but I find it more concerning the fact that we’ve had nearly a year now and we’ve never cracked that nut of tracking the people who are coming in and leaving the country.”

England’s chief medical advisor Chris Witty said yesterday that the new coronavirus variant, which was first identified in the south east of England, could spread more quickly than the current strain.

England, Scotland and Wales have announced stricter restrictions ahead of Christmas in a bid to slow the spread of the strain through limiting social interactions.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy have suspended flights and trains from Britain over fears of the new strain.

In Ireland, the government is now considering travel restrictions from Britain, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

The strain has currently not been identified in Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said that the government may need to consider moving up the date for stricter limits on visits between household.

O’Callaghan said the Cabinet will “take into account the advice from NPHET” when it meets on Tuesday.

“But I think we also need to recognise that this country is in a much better position than the United Kingdom,” O’Callaghan said.

“If you look at what happened in the United Kingdom yesterday, it is unacceptable that the government would announce at 4pm on the Saturday before Christmas that people can’t travel as of 12am that evening,” he said.

O’Callaghan said that the “reason for that is because decisions weren’t made early enough by Prime Minister Johnson”. 

“What we need to take into account is that we’re in a good position here, but what we recognise from the numbers is that household visits seem to be the driver,” he said.

“I suspect the government will revisit that when it meets on Tuesday in terms of limiting the amount of people that can go to households maybe earlier than what was originally planned.”

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