Covid-19: 313 new cases confirmed as Holohan travel advice is criticised

CMO recommends against travel overseas unless fully vaccinated

June 17th, 2021: Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said that he wants to see airline travel resume in "as normal a way as possible", adding that NPHET will continue to advise against foreign travel without a Covid-19 vaccine. Video: RTÉ

 

Another 313 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the State.

These latest figures were released by the Department of Health on Friday night.

The department also confirmed that there are now 53 Covid-19 patients in the State’s hospitals, 15 of whom are in ICU. The latter marks a drop of three patients on the figure from Thursday.

Late on Saturday night, the Department of Heath removed Canada from the mandatory hotel quarantine list with immediate effect.

Additionally, Mongolia will be added to the list from 4am on Tuesday, June 22nd.

Meanwhile, the president of the Irish Travel Agents Association has said that a recommendation by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan not to travel unless fully vaccinated runs counter to the EU digital Covid certificate scheme.

Paul Hackett said the certificate, which would be in place from July 19th, was designed so as not to discriminate against those who have not been vaccinated.

The certificate, which allows free travel within the EU, requires a citizen to be either vaccinated, or have a negative PCR test or to have recovered from Covid in the previous nine months.

“The chief medical officer, and anyone else, is 100 per cent entitled to their opinion,” Mr Hackett told RTÉ Radio.

“But we also have an elected government and we have signed up [to the EU certificate scheme].”

Mr Hackett said it “is time the Government took control of this” and that the EU scheme was agreed and approved by all member states.

The travel agent accepted there was little demand from younger people - and other age groups - for holidays abroad this year, but he put this down to confusion over the rules.

Leaving Cert students usually book holidays a year in advance but “for the most part they haven’t booked because there were no options”, he said, adding that there is no expectation of a big demand from that age group over the summer.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday evening, Dr Holohan said the continued advice for people was not to travel overseas unless they were fully vaccinated. He said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was fine with travel within Europe resuming from next month because of the extent of vaccination in the population, but that the focus should be on people who are immunised.

Asked about people in their 20s, he said he would advise them not to travel if they are not vaccinated. “There are plenty of good holiday opportunities in this country,” he said.

In relation to parents who are vaccinated, Dr Holohan said Nphet would not be making recommendations about children because they are not at present being offered vaccines.

Cross-border travel

Dr Holohan also said that Nphet “may well have to give consideration” to advising against essential travel over the Border to Northern Ireland due to the rise in Covid-19 Delta variant cases there.

Dr Holohan advised people to make their own risk assessments when deciding on travel to the North. Officials are advising against non-essential travel to Britain.

On Friday, Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer of the Health Service Executive, said he was “jubilant” about the impact of the vaccination programme on the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland.

“We are seeing achievement in the vaccine programme way beyond what we could have hoped for in the clinical trials,” he said.

“I am certainly jubilant over the effect the vaccination programme is having on vaccinated people.”

Dr Henry said the 14-day incidence per 100,000 population dropped below 100 on Thursday, adding: “It was in its thousands in the middle of January.”

While infections picked up in hospitals came to 500 in one week in January, there was none last week. The number of healthcare workers being infected was in its thousands in the middle of January and is “now in single figures”.

“Among the vaccinated groups there is huge protection,” he told Newstalk on Friday morning.

While concerns remain about the more transmissible Delta variant that is “running amok” in Britain, Dr Henry said he was encouraged by the “truly astonishing” uptake of vaccines in Ireland across all ages.

Delta variant

The number of Delta variant cases detected in the State has risen to 188, from 126 last week.

The Delta variant, which is significantly more transmissible than the Alpha (UK) variant that is dominant here, now accounts for 5 per cent of all cases sequenced by the National Virus Reference Laboratory. This compares to about 25 per cent in Northern Ireland and up to 90 per cent in England, where the variant has quickly become the dominant strain.

Although the number of Delta variant cases has increased, Nphet member Prof Philip Nolan said on Thursday it was reassuring the weekly number of cases had fallen from where it was six weeks ago. Asked how Delta variant cases were being kept under control, he said this was because most of these cases were being intercepted at or soon after the point of entry of a case to the State.

Officials said most – over 80 per cent – of the variant cases detected here were in Dublin, where their number has reduced.