Covid-19: GP welcomes new powers limiting cross-Border travel

Gardaí can now fine people from North travelling into Republic in breach of rules

Monaghan GP Dr Illona Duffy: ‘We’re more than a month after Christmas and it’s surprising that we’re still seeing so many positives coming in.’ Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Monaghan GP Dr Illona Duffy: ‘We’re more than a month after Christmas and it’s surprising that we’re still seeing so many positives coming in.’ Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

It is mid-afternoon on Monday, and already Dr Illona Duffy’s practice has dealt with 15 new positive cases of Covid-19.

“It’s disappointing,” says Dr Duffy, a GP in Monaghan town. “I would have hoped we’d have been down into single-digit figures today. and I don’t really understand why. What is going wrong?

“We’re definitely seeing outbreaks in the food industry and healthcare settings, so it’s people working together closely, which is probably reflective of the highly contagious nature of the UK variant.”

New powers which allow gardaí to fine people from Northern Ireland travelling into the Republic in breach of the Covid-19 travel rules are to be welcomed, says Dr Duffy.

“I think it’ll do things – it’s going to encourage people to adhere to the 5km limit along Border areas, but it’ll also minimise chances of people deciding to fly in and out of Belfast and to miss having to fill in the forms, so I’m delighted.”

The impact of the Border, she says, is evident in infection rates. “We’ve seen the Donegal rate drop and that’s reflected in the nearest border area in the North which has also seen a drop, both of those areas are down, so it shows there has to be that cross-contamination and cross infection.”

In recent weeks, she says, she has seen fewer Northern cars in Monaghan, but she attributes this to greater Garda intervention.

Garda checkpoints have been in operation on or near the Border during the pandemic, but previously gardaí could only advise people from the North travelling South to turn back if they did not have a reasonable excuse for their journey.

Dr Duffy said that while a few weeks ago a park in Monaghan had been “mobbed” with “load of Northern cars” at weekends, “the guards have started going out there and quizzing people on where they’ve come from and if they’re within the 5km [travel limit], and that’s definitely helped.”

Her practice, she said, had been in contact with a few people who had avoided filling out passenger locator forms by travelling into Belfast.

“It’s really important that we’ve the same message coming from all airports and both sides of the Border, and I think this is a welcome step that will help with that,” said Dr Duffy.