All inbound travellers could be asked to provide samples for genomic testing amid concerns about Covid-19 variants and travel, it has emerged.
Whole genome sequencing provides critical information for the monitoring of variants of concern.
As The Irish Times reports, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has discussed pursuing a universal strategy where all inbound passengers would provide a sample and then be subjected to enhanced contact tracing.
Minutes of a meeting of the group in late January show that the team discussed the increasing concerns at a European level in relation to the importation of new variants of Covid-19.
The growth of such variants has had a detrimental impact on the global effort to contain the virus due to increased transmissibility.
“Some members drew attention to the possible need for a broader approach to whole genome sequencing of inbound travellers.
“Reflecting on the experience of importation of cases due to international travel in March 2020, there may be merit in pursuing a universal strategy whereby all inbound travellers would give samples for analysis through whole-genome sequencing and be subject to enhanced contact tracing,” according to a note of Nphet’s discussion on January 28th.
“The Chair re-emphasised that in the first instance, adherence to basic public health measures at national level is necessary to significantly reduce community transmission.
“However, measures designed to curb non-essential international travel can significantly slow any possible importation of new variants once community transmission is at a more manageable level.”
They said it will be particularly important in the context of the rollout of the vaccination campaign.
The team also discussed provisional data from the UK which showed a lower vaccine uptake across certain population groups.
“The need to look at similar data in Ireland and anticipate challenges will be necessary going forward; a one size fits all approach may not be feasible.”
Separately, the deputy chief medical officer has warned the Government that there had been a 33 per cent week-on-week increase in the number of workplace outbreaks.
In a letter sent to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last week, Mr Glynn said there were 10 outbreaks in commercial settings, nine related to food production settings, six in manufacturing settings, and five related to the construction industry.
The letter also says that the number of close contacts captured during the week had risen three per cent on the previous week. Furthermore, a small number of people were making up for a large increase.