CMO rejects Ryanair criticism of quarantine measures

The chief medical officer has rejected a claim from Ryanair’s boss that the 14-day quarantine on overseas travellers arriving in Ireland is “ineffective”.

Dr Tony Holohan was responding to Michael O’Leary’s criticism of the new Government restrictions on people landing into the country that come into effect on Thursday.

With some exceptions, including key workers, diplomats and people from Northern Ireland, people arriving into Ireland are already required to self-isolate for 14 days.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary (Nick Ansell/PA)</figcaption>
Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary (Nick Ansell/PA)

From Thursday, passengers will also be required to complete a Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form to ensure compliance with the restriction and help with any potential contact tracing required.

Mr O’Leary said the measure has “no basis in science or in health”, and accused the Government of putting Ireland into lockdown.

The airline said it will start operating almost 1,000 flights a day from July 1 and will put a number of health measures in place, including the requirement for all passengers to wear face masks.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Ryanair plans to restore 40% of its flight schedule from July 1 (Niall Carson/PA)</figcaption>
Ryanair plans to restore 40% of its flight schedule from July 1 (Niall Carson/PA)

Asked if it was true that the restriction had no basis in science or health, Dr Holohan replied “no”.

He added: “The intention of this is obviously to provide the means through which we can follow up with passengers, people coming through the airports, to ensure that people are in a position whereby they if there is a requirement to follow up that they can be followed up and to ensure that people are given clear advice around staying at home.”

The CMO, addressing the daily Covid-19 media briefing, said he expected airport and airlines to help in the implementation of the regulations.

Earlier, Mr O’Leary said that while the Government and health authorities in Ireland have done a “great job”, the country is emerging in a “much more conservative and restricted manner” from its lockdown laws compared with most other European countries.

“We can and should do more – it’s time to get the economy moving,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“We’re requiring people to quarantine if you come in from countries that have performed better than Ireland, but no quarantine if you come from the country that’s performed worst.

“The concept of quarantine is completely ineffective if you don’t quarantine people at the airport.

“Once you allow them on to Dublin Bus or in a taxi, if you have a coronavirus-positive person then the infection spreads.

“A quarantine that is imposed only after you have used public transport to get to your eventual destination is not a quarantine, it’s simply political game-play.”

He accused the Government of imposing the “most stringent” lockdown restrictions of any European country.

“We are being overly conservative, it’s time to reward the Irish people with relaxation of these measures,” he added.

Mr Holohan later denied Ireland had one of the strictest lockdown regimes in Europe.

Mr O’Leary said that Irish families have already booked “well-earned” holidays abroad this summer.

The airline has refunded around €400 million to its passengers since travel restrictions came into force in March.

Dr Holohan said he did not anticipate the Government’s restriction on non-essential travel being lifted by July 1 and urged people not to book summer holidays abroad.

“I don’t anticipate that our advice will provide for non-essential travel from the airport at that point in time,” he said.

“We’re asking people to avoid non-essential travel, we’re asking people not to make arrangements to make non-essential trips outside of the country,”

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry also advised against flying.

He told RTÉ Morning Ireland: “We should take great care before we jump in and reverse those significant gains we have made since March in bending and smashing that curve.

“At this point in time we would not be advising people to fly.”

Health Minister Simon Harris tweeted on Wednesday morning: “The public health advice is to avoid all non-essential travel off the island currently – that’s what our doctors are telling us in the interests of our health.”