A CORK-based expert in the field of infectious disease has warned that Ireland’s response to what he has said is the country’s fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic “is our last chance”.
The AXA Research chair of applied pathogen ecology at University College Cork, Gerry Killeen, was speaking following the announcement of mandatory quarantine for all passengers arriving into Ireland from one of the 33 countries flagged as high risk by the Government.
Prof Killeen said he did not think it was too late to be introducing mandatory quarantine at this stage “because the virus hasn’t finished”.
However, he said the Government should be looking closer to home to see where the problem lies.
“The virus isn’t taking a break, it’s still evolving so we don’t know what else is coming,” he said.
Prof Killeen said the good news is that the B117 variant, although challenging, is “still containable”.
He said that while 14-day quarantine is mandatory upon arrival into Ireland from one of the 33 category-two countries, “you don’t have to look very far to see where the trouble is coming from”.
“The elephant in the room is the UK,” said Prof Killeen.
“We’re all looking at Brazil and South Africa but Europe is again one of the hotbeds of transmission in the world and if there’s one country that scares me it’s the UK because you’ve got a rushed vaccination programme where they’ve delayed the second dose.
“So, you’ve got rapid scale-up of reasonably high coverage but without the second dose so if you want to create a vaccine-resistant variant, that’s how you would do it.
“This is a country that has already produced two variants of concern so you don’t have to look very far for where the trouble is coming from.”
Prof Killeen said outbreaks going on for weeks before anybody notices “shouldn’t happen” and that a variant with higher transmissibility and virulence such as B117, although it can get out of control much faster, can also be easier to contain “through outbreak investigation and contact management”.
Since last Friday, all passengers arriving into Ireland from one of the 33 countries flagged as high risk by the Government have been required to quarantine at a hotel.
They are now required to pre-book accommodation in a designated quarantine facility and to pre-pay for their stay at a cost of €1,875 per adult for a 12-night stay, inclusive of services.
If a ‘not detected’ result is received from a Covid-19 PCR test taken on day 10, the period of quarantine will finish.
Hotel quarantine also applies to passengers arriving into the country from any other country without a negative PCR test carried out no more than 72 hours before arrival.
The period of quarantine will finish once a ‘not detected’ result from a Covid-19 PCR test is returned.