Family Christmas will not be classed as 'essential' travel reason, Holohan says

Family Christmas Will Not Be Classed As 'Essential' Travel Reason, Holohan Says
Coronavirus – Wed Oct 7, 2020, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By James Ward, PA

Families hoping to be reunited at Christmas have been dealt a blow amid a fresh warning on the safety of international travel.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has told a Government committee travel for non-essential reasons “is not safe” and that returning home for Christmas would not be classed as an essential reason.


He ruled out a situation where people returning home to visit family at the end of December could be classed as “essential” travel as he responded to questions on the feasibility of international travel between now and Christmas.

Dr Holohan said: “The situation at the moment is that international travel of a non-essential nature is not safe.

“Movement of populations around areas with high experience of this disease, particularly Europe and North America, in and out of this country is not safe.”

The advice for that period could change, as it “relates to a whole lot of factors that are unknowable at this point in time”, Dr Holohan said.


Christmas flights


Ireland is to adopt a new EU traffic light system for international travel on November 8th.

This will see countries designated as green, orange or red – with additional restrictions such as testing and quarantine required for people arriving from orange and red countries.

“If I was to guess I’d say there won’t be many countries on green by the time we’re talking about Christmas flights," Dr Holohan said.


“The vast majority of countries are red and getting redder. That’s the current situation. That’s the reason we’re concerned about international travel."

At the moment that advice is: if you’re thinking about non-essential travel, don’t do it

“Comparing our experience to those of Europe is that the level of disease transmission from this country is improving, at a point when the vast majority of countries in Europe are disimproving," he added.

“We simply have to take that into account in terms of our public health advice to people who are making plans around travel.”


However, Dr Holohan was "optimistic" that Ireland may be able to relieve some of the current Level 5 restrictions as planned on December 1st.

“At the moment that advice is: if you’re thinking about non-essential travel, don’t do it," he added.


“That’s very clear, we’re advising against non-essential travel on public health grounds. If we think that can change, we’ll make that advice available.”


It comes as the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has advised that international travellers should restrict their movement for five to seven days if testing is introduced on flights.

A symptom check and test should also take place on day five of that period, Nphet told the Oireachtas committee on transport.

This would be the “most effective method to contain importation of the virus”, but could still miss up to 15 per cent of imported cases.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory at University College Dublin, expressed reservations on the use of rapid antigen testing at airports, saying their sensitivity rate was only 80 per cent.

“You will miss one in five cases, and that’s not good enough,” he told the committee.

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