Airline passengers arriving in Ireland in August as holiday traffic increases will bring Covid-19 infection with them, a leading infectious disease consultant warned today.
Prof Paddy Mallon, a specialist in St Vincent’s Hospital pinpointed August as well as the upcoming flu season as potential danger points in a resurgence of the infection.
He said it was essential there was an essential testing and tracing system here to pick up the infection quickly and the turnaround time is still not good enough.
It takes over two days from point of referral for a test to tracing contacts and it should be one day, he told the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response.
He also said there is still no coherent plan for managing the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.
The flu vaccine should be mandatory for health workers, he added.
Asked about the spread of the virus in nursing homes he said from his experience there was a big variation in how individual homes coped with the risk.
The key is examining the management of nursing homes, he added.
“We are only now beginning to understand the impact of this first wave on the health of our citizens.
“There is no effective pharmaceutical treatment or vaccine to prevent acquisition or spread of this infection. In addition to the large number of deaths we have witnessed in Ireland, as highlighted earlier this week to this committee, many of those affected, even young and healthy individuals, experience considerable morbidity and prolonged recovery times. “
Accepting any level of ongoing community transmission puts people’s health at risk and will further hold back economic recovery.
“Ongoing community transmission, such as that seen in the United States, Sweden and parts of the United Kingdom, together with resurgence of cases in Lisbon and the outbreaks reported in Germany serve to highlight that Ireland is still very much within a geographical high risk zone for Covid-19.
"I and others in the infectious diseases clinical community believe that it is inevitable that we will experience a resurgence of cases as we relax restrictions and permit more travel.
“In this context, control of SARS-CoV-2 virus within our communities, through a highly effective programme of rapid testing, contact tracing and community actions, becomes a priority in maintaining our national biosecurity.”
Prof Mallon's comments come as the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported an increase in daily cases for first time in months.
Regional director for WHO in Europe, Hans Kluge, said in a press conference today that the pandemic continues to accelerate, with a record number of new coronavirus cases reported on Sunday - 183,020 confirmed in 24 hours.
"Over 2.5 million cases have been reported from Europe. While the European Region is reporting a decreasing proportion of global cases than earlier in the year, the Region continues to report close to 20,000 new cases and over 700 new deaths daily," Mr Kluge said.
"Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months. For weeks I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures.
"In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality – 30 countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks.
"In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe."