International travel is of more concern in Ireland’s fight against the coronavirus and its Delta variant than indoor dining, according to a leading virologist.
Dr Cillian De Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory and a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), said that he would be more concerned about travel than indoor dining as that could be controlled.
“Travel is a greater risk to us,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
While people who were vaccinated could travel safely, he said, the issue was the people with whom they would be mixing when they were away. “That’s a problem.”
Nphet’s position remained that non-essential travel should be avoided, he said, even though the Government had made a decision to go ahead with the European digital travel cert and to allow travel from July 19th.
Dining vaccine pass
Many parts of the world had yet to commence their vaccination programme and the virus continued to spread widely which made the issue of travel very challenging, Dr De Gascun said. Further variants were also likely to emerge, which made travel a greater risk to the country.
When asked about the possibility of a vaccination pass for indoor dining, Dr De Gascun said that preparations for the reopening of society had been going very well until the Delta variant had hit.
Discussions had been ongoing about the possibility of such a pass for some time, he said, but it had been hoped that it would not be necessary to make a decision that would lead to discrimination.
It was alarming how quickly things had changed — the number of cases had been coming down, driven down by the vaccination programme, he said, but now the Delta variant was the dominant strain.
Dr De Gascun said he did not envy the Government who were trying to judge what was best for the largest number of people. They had taken the approach to protect the most vulnerable.
Travel cert access
It comes as the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that people will have access to the EU's digital travel cert from July 19th through the post and by email.
Plans for the cert are being worked on by an inter-departmental group, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
The plan is that people will be able to access the cert or QR code by July 19th by a variety of means including the post and by email.
When asked about use of a cert system for the hospitality sector, the Minister said that the industry had not wanted such a system and said it would be inoperable, but he believed it could be done.
Some in the industry now believed it could be done having looked at similar systems elsewhere in Europe, he said. The bottom line was that it was not safe to open up the sector to the unvaccinated.
Rapid testing could play a significant role, he added. There was a lot of work going on in the education sector involving rapid testing, he added. “I’m an advocate for rapid testing and I would like to see more of it.”