'We would have done things differently if we were back in February' - Sam McConkey


Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.26 2 Jul 2020


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An infectious disease expert says Ireland would have done things differently if we were living through February and March again.

Professor Sam McConkey is head of the department of international health and tropical medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RSCI).

He has backed calls from the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan for people to not travel abroad, except in exceptional circumstances.

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He told Lunchtime Live people should listen to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"The risk is not just the airline travel... it's unfortunately picking up something from all the people in the bars and restaurants and socialising that you're doing on your holidays from all the other travellers from all over the other parts of the world that have come to be on holiday in that place."

"And acquiring it, being well on your return to Ireland but then in an incubation time bringing it back.

"As we had people from Cheltenham, from northern Italy... back in February/March.

"I think if we were living through February and March 2020 in Ireland again, our public policy would be different.

"We would have asked all of those folk travelling from England - from soccer matches there and from Cheltenham and from Milan in Italy - to be two weeks in self-quarantine".

Asked if people should go abroad, he said: "I think largely it's no, I strongly agree with Tony Holohan's consistent advice.

"People have to look at where we get our information from, and the Department of Foreign Affairs have a website that tells us very clearly about travel abroad - and that clearly says no to non-essential travel.

"If someone's mother dies in Milan or in Spain and they feel, quite rightly - or even very sick - that they should be at their mother's side when they're passing away.

"I can understand that people should travel in that situation, but that's exceptional emergency travel.

"But the idea of going on your summer holidays to somewhere like Florida or California or Germany - where there's been outbreaks of this.

"Even Portugal we thought was OK a few weeks ago, but now the numbers are going up.

"And that's been a consistent message from Tony Holohan and from the Department of Foreign Affairs all the way along."

On the idea of air bridges for countries in similar situations, he said: "In theory that plan makes sort of theoretical sense.

"The problem is the places that are really safe are places like New Zealand and Wuhan in China - where there's almost no transmission.

"New Zealand they won't let you in unless you've a New Zealand passport, and even if you've a New Zealand passport you've to do 14 days in quarantine.

"And similarly China, you've to do 14 days in quarantine and they're very restrictive on who gets in.

"My point is that the places that are very safe to go to aren't allowing us in, and are very far away and not places we normally go on holidays.

"The sort of places we usually go, like Portugal for example, unfortunately is not as safe as you might think."

'We would have done things differently if we were back in February' - Sam McConkey

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Main image: Pictured (left to right) Craig Laurie and Rachel Pierson from Waterford arrive back in Ireland from Glasgow at Dublin Airport. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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Air Bridges Coronavirus Covid-19 International Travel Ireland Italy Portugal Quarentine Sam McConkey Spain Travel Abroad

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