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Fully vaccinated can go on holiday abroad from July 19 without PCR test, says Holohan


People who are fully vaccinated or had a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the previous nine months can go abroad from July 19 without having a PCR test, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan confirmed today.

They will need to have had two doses of vaccine or a one-shot Johnson and Johnson jab.

However, people who are unvaccinated will still need a PCR test.

He gave his clearest indication yet that people can go on holidays from mid-July.

Under the EU Digital Certificate for travel they can travel within member states from July 19.

However, he was unable to say if there will be any change to the new quarantine rules for people coming here from the UK by that date because of uncertainty over the Delta variant.

"It is impossible to say where they will be in five weeks time," he added.

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Dr Holohan was appearing before the Oireachtas transport committee where he repeated his reservations about the level of reliability and use of antigen tests in some settings but he said he would be open to a pilot study being carried out to measure their impact on people taking airline flights.

He said it was a matter for a particular industry to propose these kind of real-world pilot studies.

He warned that using antigen tests in settings that could be risky could not be used as a means of giving a "green light" to activities.

The tests are most suitable to high-risk environments such as meat processing plans or places of high - prevalence where there is a higher chance of being infected.

Committee chairman Kieran O Donnell said the committee will be following up on proposed pilot study involving antigen tests with the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

Public health measures and vaccination are the safest way to reopen, Dr Holohan told the committee.

However, several members questioned why a pilot study on antigen tests for people flying had not been carried out up to now.

The issue of antigen testing appears to have been allowed drift despite an expert group report supporting its use in certain settings.

Dr Holohan said there needed to be real world evaluation not randomised controlled studies.

"From our point of view if we can keep transmission down to the levels of the moment and Europe can find itself in the encouraging position it is in , notwithstanding the risk of variants, and we can get vaccination rates higher we will see extensive resumption of airline travel in the late summer without the need for any form of testing."

Asked how long a pilot study would take Prof Philip Nolan of the National Public Health Emergency Team said there is evidence that these tests are less useful in screening asymptomatic people.

Pilot studies will be challenging and take time, he added.

The delegation of health officials said these pilots will need consent of the people and are very labour intensive.

There is concern about unvaccinated people travelling abroad, coming back and mingling indoors in some reopened hospitality setting.

This could "threaten" some of our progress.

HSE lead on infection control Martin Cormican said nobody is for or against antigen testing.

It is about the specific tool for the job you want to do, he added.

In an airport you are "filtering a flow of people."

The PCR test will filter out more people than with an antigen test.

Dr Holohan said he anticipated more people will be able to attend football matches next month without the need for "antigen testing or anything else."

This is because of the disease incidence and the rise in people getting vaccinated.

If people are vaccinated it is something safe they can do.

As we move through the summer and things stay on track with incidence and vaccination more people can attend matches, he added.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland