"The virus is still out there," Professor Philip Nolan cautioned on Monday.
Philip Nolan, the Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group and president of Maynooth University, said on Monday that international travel for people in Ireland is “too big a risk” at the moment and that people need to prioritize as more of the country reopens.
Professor Nolan spoke on RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland program on Monday, June 29, the same day that Ireland entered Phase 3 of its Roadmap to reopen society and the economy.
While the advice from Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday remains for people in Ireland to avoid all non-essential travel abroad until further notice, EU member states, including Ireland, are preparing to decide upon “a clear and flexible approach towards removing restrictions on travel to the EU starting on 1 July.”
On Monday, Professor Nolan said: “We need to remember that this virus is still out there.
“We just need to prioritize of all the things we now can do, what things are most important to us. And when we’re doing them, be very careful not to spread the virus.
“And in that context, unfortunately, in other parts of the world, there are quite high levels of the virus in some countries and increasing levels in some countries. And right now, this country doesn’t need the risk and the burden of bringing cases into the country unnecessarily.”
New travel-related COVID-19 infections a grave concern. A surge seeded by travel is a risk to public health, to healthcare workers, to the vulnerable in our community. We can protect them by foregoing our holiday abroad. A useful question for any activity: luxury or necessity? pic.twitter.com/iArJcB7ORX— Professor Philip Nolan (@President_MU) June 28, 2020
Professor Nolan said that over the last two weeks, there were only 113 new cases reported in Ireland. Of those, approximately 12, or 11 percent, were travel-related and could be traced to “a broad spread of countries,” including the EU, the Middle East, and the US.
“The difficulty with travel-related cases is that they 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.”
Professor Nolan acknowledged that while those numbers are “small in absolute terms,” they are “an early warning sign of the potential for travel-related infections to increase.
“The reason for sounding the warning - what we’re doing now is we’re moving to a phase where we can do an awful lot more, but we have to do it in a prioritized manner and we need to do it carefully.
“From my perspective right now, unnecessary travel abroad is just too big of a risk to be allowed to happen.”
Regarding the proposed “air bridges” between Ireland and other countries that are managing the spread of coronavirus well, Nolan said he wants to see cooperation across the European Union and a defined set of criteria to operate under.
“Just because we can do something now, doesn’t mean we should do it,” Nolan said, highlighting the importance of individual responsibility.
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said on Newstalk Breakfast also on Monday: “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.”
Later in the day on Monday, when it was revealed that there were no new coronavirus-deaths in the Republic of Ireland for the day, Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan said: "We are starting to see a worrying trend, with the number of reported cases increasing, and some new clusters.
"As restrictions are lifted and people move about more, it’s important that we use the tools that have helped us suppress the virus to date.
"Hand washing, physical distancing, cough/sneeze hygiene and wearing face coverings are important personal behaviours that mean, as we go about our daily lives, that we are doing everything we can to avoid contracting the virus and spreading it to those we love."
We move to phase 3 on Mon 29th June. Very low levels of #COVID19. What worries me most now is travel from overseas and I fear many planning foreign trips. 2020 is a year for a staycation. Stay in Ireland, spend locally and follow public health advice. @roinnslainte @HSELive— Dr Tony Holohan (@CMOIreland) June 27, 2020
Would you feel comfortable traveling internationally yet? Let us know in the comments, below