Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

12.16 31 May 2020


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Public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally has said Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary should leave public health decisions to the public health authorities.

On Friday, Mr O’Leary told Newstalk that the Government should remove the “insane and useless” self-isolation rules for people arriving into the country.

Dr Scally, who has previously questioned suggestions that it is safe for people to fly again, was among those copied in on an open letter sent by Mr O'Leary to the Government.

Speaking on On The Record With Gavan Reilly his morning, Dr Scally - President of the Epidemiology & Public Health section at the Royal Society of Medicine - said he’d be happy to debate public health issues with Mr O’Leary ‘any time’.

Gabriel Scally: Michael O'Leary should 'leave public health to public health authorities'

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Dr Scally explained: "I was just copied in... I didn't think it was for me to reply to.

“Personally speaking - and a lot of people would feel the same - I’d rather he got on with refunding people all the money he owes them from the flights he has cancelled and gets on with running the airline, and leave public health to the public health authorities, which are the departments of health."

Dr Scally says he does see it could be possible for journeys on planes ‘relatively safe’.

However, he warned that it’s “all the other stuff that goes with it” - such as activity in the airport, or travelling to and from the airport - that could make things challenging.

He suggested: “There certainly is great opportunity to increase air travel passenger travel between countries who are in a similar state of progress with the virus.

"Greece has started that, some of the Baltic countries are relaxing their rules… but only with countries where the virus is under control.

“I note Greece has regarded the UK & Ireland as one territory on this, and is not minded to have any sort of relaxed regime for people coming from Ireland and Britain.”

Elsewhere, Dr Scally said he’s a “great fan” of quarantine measures, as they’ve worked throughout history as well as during the current coronavirus outbreak.

He observed: “Just look at Australia, New Zealand or Taiwan - they’ve used it fantastically effectively. It would be a tragedy going through everything we’ve gone through - lost relatives and friends, and the hardship of people losing jobs - if it was to flare up all over again.

“I think getting all the details from people and getting people to sign pledges that they will self-isolate for 14 days… and [having] a method for checking up on that… maybe that would work.

“In the absence of that, I would absolutely think the holding of people in a hotel or whatever until it’s safe for them to go about their business would be a good alternative.”

However, he warned that discussing such measures is pointless unless “we sort out the different arrangements between the UK and Ireland, and North and South within Ireland”.

He said he "really worries" about the testing regime in the UK, as they “haven’t had the sort of testing and case finding regime that have been operating so successfully in the Republic”.

Main image: File photo of Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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