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Ireland needs to rebuild Covid-19 testing regime says Trinity immunologist

Ireland’s testing and tracing system for Covid-19 needs to be rebuilt, according to an immunologist.

The UK has said it's going to use a "whack-a-mole" technique to find the virus in future, which experts believe is not possible in Ireland.

There are fears that with the increase in air travel, there'll need to be a more robust system to ensure test results are given quickly and contacts tracked down.

Tomás Ryan, associate professor in immunology at Trinity College Dublin, says Ireland wouldn't be ready to follow a system like in the UK.

"The Trinity Professor says: "It's clear we don't have that infrastructure. Health officials from the HSE were discussing how our testing regime has been wound down.

"It was never fast enough in the first place to do that kind of whack a mole with consistent suppression operation. And it never operated consistently high enough consistent capacity.

"It's obviously going to have to be rebuilt."

Early concerns were raised in Ireland's response to the coronavirus outbreak at the time the public spent waiting for cases to be tested.

There was also a significant backlog in testing to be completed.

Nearly 20% of new Covid-19 cases in Ireland are travel-related

Almost a fifth of new coronavirus cases in the last week have been related to travel.

The National Public Health Emergency Team(NPHET) has again raised concerns about the increasing trend.

A further 5 people with Covid-19 have died in the Republic, and there are 15 new confirmed cases.

Professor Philip Nolan from NPHET's modelling advisory group, says the number of new cases linked to travel is increasing. 

Speaking about the data, Professor Nolan said: "In absolute terms, it's not just the preportion, the number of travel related cases is increasing again. 

"We were looking at 70 or 80 per week in the very early stages of the epidemic, very low numbers in the middle,

"And we are back up to the low teens now in terms of the number of travel related cases we are seeing. That is a source of concern."

The data comes as the the government is preparing a list of "green" countries it considers safe to resume travel with by setting up "airbridges."

There is also considerable debate about Ireland's ongoing two-week self quarantine rule for arrivals. 

Roisín, Shortall, Co-leader of the Social Democrats has called for mandatory quarantine in hotels near airports in Ireland, saying this is what other countries are doing to handle travel as they reopen. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar believes this is unlikely. 

Ahead of any new decision by the new coalition, Mr Varadkar shot down any chances of mandatory quarantine being introduced.

“We don’t have the adequate number of airport hotels” or security staff to detain such a large amount of people that travel to Ireland on a daily basis, he said.