Random coronavirus tests are set to be introduced at Irish airports, Ireland's Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said on Sunday.
“We are concerned and we’re monitoring the situations carefully," Donnelly said while speaking on RTE’s This Week on August 2 regarding the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the Republic of Ireland.
The day Donnelly featured on the radio program, 53 new cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total to 26,162. (On Monday, the Republic of Ireland reported 26,208 confirmed cases.)
“What concerns the public health doctors more, is not the ones we know about, it’s about this community transmission, which means people are coming forward and testing positive and we don’t know where they contracted the disease.”
Donnelly continued: “In the last 14 days, we have approximately 400 live cases, and the vast majority of those we know where they are, but about 80 of these are from community transmission.”
“The good news is that the number of people being hospitalized is very low,” Donnelly added.
Asked if Ireland is "doing anything differently" from any other European country that has seen a resurgence, Donnelly said, “In terms of foreign travel, we have the most restrictive green list of any country in the EU."
The Irish government published the first iteration of its green list on June 22. People arriving in to Ireland from the 15 countries on the green list will not have to abide by the 14-day self-isolation requirement. Despite publishing the green list, the Irish government continues to advise against all nonessential travel.
The green list is set to be reviewed this week and considering the change in Ireland's coronavirus statistics, the countries on the list are expected to be amended.
Donnelly also spoke of the COVID tracker app, which he says “has been very, very successful here, we have nearly one and a half million people download it.”
He noted: "In a world first, the Northern Ireland app and the Republic of Ireland app work across the entire island; it's the first time we have a cross-jurisdictional approach to that which is very good to see."
He continued: “The locator form is becoming electronic and we’re bulking up the team that chases up on that.
“We’re introducing random testing at the airports and an increased public health presence, and we’re examining other options as well for further restrictions on non-essential travel."
Donnelly did not elaborate on plans for coronavirus testing at Ireland's airports, which will need approval from the Cabinet.
“The international situation is becoming more volatile," he continued. "We’re looking at what has been happening in the United States and Latin America and even closer to home, Spain, Germany, France, parts of England, parts of Australia as well.
“We have taken a cautious approach, we are continuing to take a cautious approach,” Donnelly said.
"The result of that is, thankfully, the number of cases, including cases coming into the country - that’s either from people arriving here or returning home and including the next level of transmission - is approximately 1 in 10.
“The good news is that the vast majority of this, 90 percent of this, is entirely a domestic situation.”
Donnelly went on to say “it’s the basics that are important" as he urged people to come forward if they are symptomatic and adhere to the “safe behaviors.”
Later in the discussion, Donnelly said that “the number one focus is getting the schools reopened,” but that it will be the National Public Health Emergency Team's (NPHET's) decision on Ireland’s next steps.
NPHET is set to meet on Tuesday and is expected to provide further recommendations regarding Ireland's progression into Phase 4, which is supposed to begin on August 10.
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