Holohan and Donnelly raise concerns over international travel

Dr Tony Holohan, speaking on the Update to the Government's Roadmap for Reopening Society and the Economy. Pic: Julien Behal

Additional reporting: Eoin English

The Chief Medical Officer has raised concerns over international travel with the new Health Minister.

Dr Tony Holohan flagged his concerns as the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) announced tonight that it has been informed that one more person with Covid-19 has died, bringing to 1,735 the total number of Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland.

The HSPC also said that as of midnight on Saturday, it had been notified of three new confirmed cases of the virus, which brought to 25,439 the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Ireland.

The HSE said contact-tracing on the latest cases is underway.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly told RTÉ radio that Dr Tony Holohan had “re-raised” his concerns on the government’s plan to allow foreign travel without mandatory 14-day isolation from approved countries in a conversation the pair had yesterday (Sunday) morning.

The list of approved countries is due to be drawn up by July 9, Mr Donnelly said, but there is no timeline for its activation.

"What we know is that a decision was taken by government that on the ninth of July a framework list would be provided, however no date has been given for when that might be activated."

Mr Donnelly said that the so-called "airbridge" approach to foreign travel was consistent with WHO advice. 

Under the plan, Ireland would pair with countries which have similar low transmission rates of Covid-19 and establish restriction-free travel between them.

However, Mr Donnelly said that the main focus of public health advice had to be avoiding a second wave of the virus. 

He said that he was not yet ready to revisit the plan to reopen the country to foreign travel.

"What the public health officials are saying is 'that's all well and good, and it may be where we go but let's be very careful'," he said.

"So for example, Portugal two weeks ago had a very low rate, similar to ours, and that would be a country that you could see us putting on this so-called 'green list'. 

"But over the last few days Portugal has had a spike, we've seen one in one of the German provinces, so it's going to be a challenging thing to do. 

"We have to strike a balance between making sure that business can continue, that people can go abroad, but we have to also do everything we can to make sure that we minimise the chances of a second surge."

The new Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, meanwhile, said that people should look to holiday at home this year.

"If as many of us can stay at home for holidays this summer, it would be putting money back into the Irish economy and helping small Irish tourism and help Irish business. That is not only going to be good for the country and our economy and for ourselves, it's also going to be good for our health."