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'We are going to have second surge', says minister as travel is new threat

  • Tourists may face two tests as fears of importing virus rise

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Shoppers wearing face masks on Grafton Street yesterday

Shoppers wearing face masks on Grafton Street yesterday

Collins Photos Dublin

Shoppers wearing face masks on Grafton Street yesterday

The number of people who have died in Ireland from Covid-19 after picking up the lethal virus abroad has risen to six after it emerged tourists from virus hotspots could face double testing.

The additional death involving a so-called imported case of the virus, indicating that Covid- 19 was contracted in another country, was confirmed by that country's disease watchdog.

Despite a slowing down in the spread of the virus, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warned: "We are going to have a second surge."

No further deaths were announced yesterday, but 20 more people have been diagnosed with the virus.

Scientist

A leading scientist has said if government proposals to test more tourists here from countries with a higher incidence of Covid-19 than Ireland go ahead, they will need to be checked both before departure and after arrival.

Professor Paul Moynagh, head of the Department of Biology at Maynooth University, said a Covid-19 test gave a result at a specific point in time.

"If you were infected today and had the test today or tomorrow, you would probably test negative," he said.

"In three or four days' time you're likely to test positive. It depends where you are in the infection cycle."

It means that if the Government goes ahead with proposals to step up screening of people coming from countries with a higher incidence of the virus, tourists will be tested before they travel and when they arrive here.

Prof Moynagh said that, ideally, there should be "double testing", with the second within four to seven days.

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Prof Paul Moynagh has spoken about testing

Prof Paul Moynagh has spoken about testing

Prof Paul Moynagh has spoken about testing

This is more manageable when the numbers of people coming here from those countries are low, but as we head toward winter it could put a strain on community testing here.

"Cost, speed and scale" would have to be taken into account, Prof Moynagh added.

He said he welcomed the publication of a green list of countries with a similar or lower incidence of the virus to here.

"It's a first step in trying to get back to normal. When are things going to get better? Maybe this is as good as it's going to get," he said.

People travelling here will probably have to fill in the passenger locator form online two days before they arrive.

The form, which sets out their details and contact number in advance of a two-week restriction of movement, is currently filled out manually after arrival.

"We are going to have a second surge," Mr Donnelly said.

"We're hoping it will be low. We're hoping it might be localised geographically, but we have to be prepared within particular communities, particular counties, particular cities, for the prevalence rate to go up."

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn added: "Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease that is still circulating in our communities. It is a dangerous illness that no one wants to catch.

"While we have reason to be positive, we now need to continue to work together towards our collective goal of resuming healthcare services, reopening our children's schools and protecting the most vulnerable.

"The past weeks have shown that when we maintain physical distance, wash our hands, wear a face cover where appropriate and cover our coughs and sneezes, together we can interrupt the spread of Covid-19. Let's keep going."

Parents have been warned not to travel abroad on family holidays as they risk jeopardising the reopening of schools by doing so.

The Government announced it was "very confident" of schools returning and is due to unveil a "comprehensive plan" on Monday to enable all teachers and students to get back to class next month.

Onus

However, as the Government continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas, the onus is put on families to stay at home.

"If parents want their kids to be back in school in August, they should be holidaying at home and spending time at home," a senior government source said.

"The overarching message is to stay at home."

The Department of Education said anyone arriving back from a country not on the green list would have to restrict movement for 14 days.

"This includes parents and children," a spokesperson told the Herald.