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File photo of people arriving at Dublin Airport in May. Leah Farrell/
Phase Three

Warning that non-essential travel abroad should be avoided to prevent a Covid-19 surge in Ireland

Professor Philip Nolan has said that just because travel restrictions are easing doesn’t mean people should go abroad.

NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL abroad should be avoided to help prevent another surge of Covid-19 in Ireland, Professor Philip Nolan has warned.

Nolan, who chairs the epidemiological modelling advisory group at the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), said that just because travel restrictions are easing doesn’t mean people should go abroad.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Nolan said about 12 (11%) of the 100 or so cases of the virus reported in Ireland in the last two weeks were travel-related.

He said this figure may seem small but should act as a warning as Ireland continues to ease restrictions.

“The difficulty with travel-related cases is they can often get into the country and begin to spread before you detect them. So it’s a particularly dangerous form of introduction of the virus, it spreads quite quickly.”

Nolan noted that there were a lot of travel-related Covid-19 infections in Ireland early in the pandemic but “very little in the middle because restrictions were so tight”.

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

As part of Phase Three, which kicks in today, Nolan said people “can do an awful lot more”, but added: “We need to do it in a prioritised manner and we need to do it carefully and, certainly from my perspective right now, unnecessary travel abroad is just too big a risk to be allowed to happen.”

EU needs to work together

Nolan called on countries in the European Union to work together “cautiously” in relation to travel.

“We do want to increase the amount of travel over time that can occur across Europe, but it does need to be connected 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.”

Nolan added that “just because we can do something now doesn’t mean we should do”.

He said, in his view, the government should be “considering prioritising enabling those who really need to travel” such as to reunite with their family or go back to work.

People who return to Ireland from another country are advised to self-isolate for two weeks, and Nolan said it is up to the government if this needs to be made mandatory and backed up by legislation.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, said that a “green list” of European countries that Irish people could travel to should be created by 9 July, while ensuring the country is not “raising risk levels significantly of importing this virus back into Ireland”.

“People don’t want to see this back in a major way and we need to be cautious in relation to international travel, but at the same time we also need to take note of what is happening across the European Union and to make sure that Ireland is consistent with that,” Coveney said.

“We have set the July 9th date as a date to be able to give people guidance as to what are the safer countries to travel to.”

The minister said that some countries pose a much higher risk than others and the so-called green list would assess which countries have similar levels of the virus as Ireland.

With reporting by Orla Dwyer

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