A Cork expert in infectious diseases has said he is “relieved” at and “very supportive” of the Government’s decision to temporarily ban travel from Britain to Ireland following fears over the spread of a new strain of Covid-19.
The Government has imposed a 48-hour ban on travel from Britain to Ireland, which came into effect at midnight.
The rules are to be reviewed during tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting but it is understood they will be extended.
Speaking to The Echo, University College Cork professor Gerry Killeen said that until the new strain is understood no chances can be taken.
“We must assume that it [the new strain] is here already and that means that whatever little bit of room we had for relaxing restrictions, that’s gone,” said Mr Killeen.
“It’s a new game now.”
Prof Killeen, Axa research chair in applied pathogen ecology at the Environmental Research Institute and School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences at UCC, said he disagreed with the Government’s decision to reopen much of society earlier this month, saying that the rise in case numbers was “predictable”.
“It doesn’t change the decisions we need to make, it just makes them literally twice as urgent and any room that there was for fluffing around is just gone,” he said.
Speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin last night, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said there will be a 48-hour ban on flights arriving in Ireland from Britain, while ferries will continue to operate for freight.
“We need haulage coming in to keep our shelves full but other passengers will be restricted,” said Mr Ryan. “I talked to the UK minister this morning and have been talking throughout the day with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, the health minister, foreign affairs minister, and others involved. We have to do this because the UK government themselves has put in place very strict restrictions on movements.”
British prime minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping restrictions in London and the south- east of England over the weekend in a bid to get the disease under control.
“This new strain of coronavirus, which they have identified, seems to have a much higher transmission rate,” said Mr Ryan.
“On a precautionary basis, it’s right for us to follow up on the Dutch, Belgium, Italian, and other governments will do the same.
“Any passengers who are in transit will have to set up a mechanism to repatriate them in a safe way, but general travel between here and Britain is going to be restricted and we are going to review that at Cabinet to see if there will be any further changes.
“We have put it in place for 48 hours but there will be changing developments, we will assess how it works and how we manage it from there. It’s not as if after 48 hours there will be a loosening but it’s right to do it on a phased, test basis to restrict traffic now on a precautionary principle and then review it in 48 hours’ time.”
A spokesperson for Cork Airport advised any passengers affected by the Government’s decision to contact their airline directly.
Ireland relaxed its Covid-19 restrictions on Friday, allowing inter-county travel over Christmas until January 6 and permitting three households to meet indoors. However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed he would recommend to Cabinet that gastropubs and restaurants close again before the new year.