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Airline passengers could dodge 14-day quarantine by coming into country via north - Holohan's warning letter to Harris

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Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Airline passengers coming from the UK  who want to dodge 14-day quarantine rules could travel via Northern Ireland to the Republic, posing a public health risk, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned.

In a strongly worded letter to Health Minister Simon Harris on May 12 he said there is a risk of “imported cases associated with non-essential travel from and through Great Britain to Ireland via Northern Ireland” if different arrangements were to apply to such overseas travel.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) highlighted this risk and recommended that measures be taken to address the potential threat.

The previous week Dr Holohan also wrote to the Minister saying he was worried about Irish people taking summer holidays abroad and he called for a mandatory quarantine of 14 days after flying here.

It should apply to all people who return to Ireland from overseas with limited exceptions such as supply chain workers and those travelling to Northern Ireland.

They could be placed in a “designated facility.”

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Dr Tony Holohan. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Dr Tony Holohan. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Dr Tony Holohan. Picture: Steve Humphreys

All newly arrived passengers should also have to complete a public health locator form, according to the newly published correspondence.

He said NPHET was concerned that as the number of domestic cases of the virus here declines and we move towards easing measures that the “relative importance of the risk of importation of cases from overseas increases.”

The aim was to eliminate non essential travel and NPHET was concerned that Irish citizens may be actively planning to resume travel overseas in the near term for tourism purposes.

Meanwhile, the letter sent to Mr Harris last week, giving the go ahead from NPHET for the start of phase one of the roadmap exiting lockdown Dr Holohan said that workplaces had the potential to become the centre for new clusters of infection as public health measures are eased.

There is a need for the “slow, gradual , stepwise and incremental easing of some restrictions” on the proviso there is a strong emphasis of the risks involved.

He said there will be an ongoing risk of Covid-19 for nursing homes over the next six to eighteen months and it was recommended that an expert independent panel be set up to oversee the issue.

This would examine the measures needed to 2021 to protect nursing homes.

He also warned that “stricter measures” may have to be reintroduced if there is a strong upsurge of infection following the easing of lockdown.

He pointed to countries like South Korea and Germany where loosening of lockdown led to a rise in cases.

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Online Editors