Unnecessary foreign travel is still "too big a risk", says expert 2 months ago

Unnecessary foreign travel is still "too big a risk", says expert

Foreign travel restrictions were due to ease this July 9.

Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team's Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, has warned against any unnecessary foreign travel, even when travel restrictions ease up this July 9.

The expert spoke about the topic on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1, saying that the public should be cautious when planning travel and that priority for foreign travel should be given to people who need to travel for work or to re-unify families.

"The virus is still out there," he said, and just because we can do something does not mean that we should.

In the last two weeks, out of the 113 new coronavirus cases, 11 percent of those were travel-related.

"We need to remember that the virus is still out there ... In other parts of the world, there are quite high levels of the virus in some countries and increasing levels in some countries ... Right now, this country doesn't need the risk and the burden of bringing cases into the country unnecessarily."

Professor Nolan explained that the major risk with travel-related cases is that they can often get into the country and spread before they are detected.

"It's a particularly dangerous form of introduction of the virus, it spreads quite quickly. We had a lot of travel-related infection early in the pandemic, very little in the middle because restrictions were so tight for us. This is an early warning sign for the potential for travel-related infection to increase."

He argued that, at this point in time, any unnecessary travel abroad is too big of a risk to be allowed to happen.

He acknowledged that cross-country travel is important and that it should be allowed in the future but only when the necessary and proper precautions are followed. He said that all EU countries need to work together to make foreign travel possible within the EU.

"I think it's very important that the European Union works together, cautiously. We do want to increase the amount of travel over time that can occur across Europe but it does need to be a collective effort."

For people who have returned after travelling abroad, Professor Nolan said that they should be required to isolate and that the Government should give consideration as to how this could be legislated for.

Simon Coveney, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that people need to be vigilant to ensure that we "don't allow this virus back in," and that future decisions on easing international travel restrictions will be based on data and science and not politics.

He said that international travel restrictions are set to be eased on July 9 but only to countries that have similar risk levels to Ireland and that people are not encouraged to travel to other countries where the risk of transmission is higher.

Dr Tony Holohan, the Chief Medical Officer, said that 2020 is "a year for a staycation" and encouraged people to follow public health advice, holiday in Ireland and spend their money locally.