Contact tracing for air passengers no longer needed under new advice

ireland
Contact Tracing For Air Passengers No Longer Needed Under New Advice
Coronavirus – Mon Jul 19, 2021, © PA Wire/PA Images
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Digital Desk Staff

Routine contact tracing of air passengers who test positive for Covid-19 has ended, under new advice issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

In future, flight contact tracing will only be carried out where a risk assessment by public health officials indicates it is necessary.

As The Irish Times reports, factors that might give rise to contact tracing include: more than 10 unrelated cases on a flight, among people not travelling as a family or group; or confirmation of a “non-prevalent” variant of concern.

Contact tracing may also be carried out if there is a public health concern, such as the exposure of highly vulnerable groups, or a high burden of symptoms among cases, according to an updated guide on public health advice from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

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The practice of routinely tracing contacts of cases who have flown into Ireland was ceased last week without announcement.

Previously, contact tracing was recommended for confirmed cases who were on a flight while infectious.

Usually, this involved tracing contacts who were seated within two seats or rows of the case.

Risk assessment

Where three or more cases were identified on a flight, officials would carry out a risk assessment, which could result in the entire flight being contact traced.

Studies have shown international travel played a central role in reseeding cases in Ireland in summer 2020, including new variants. In one documented outbreak last year, a single seven-hour flight to Dublin led to 59 cases in Ireland.

Travel-related cases also drove the rapid surge in cases of the new alpha variant before last Christmas.

The recommendation against non-essential international travel was dropped last July, as more people were vaccinated.

Despite the lifting of restrictions, only 2 per cent of people report having travelled off the island of Ireland in the previous weeks, and three-quarters say they do not intend to travel this year.

Some 306 cases were linked to travel last week, but there were no travel-related outbreaks, according to the latest HSE reports. Since the start of the current wave over two months ago, 41 outbreaks have been linked to overseas travel, involving 149 linked cases. The biggest single travel outbreak involved 11 cases.

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