Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

13.32 10 Jan 2021


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Ireland's "open door" policy to travellers into the country is contributing to the current struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19, a public health expert has said.

Dr Gabriel Scally said he found it "astounding that of all the islands in the world, Britain and Ireland are doing the worst".

It comes as travel agents are calling for a "common sense" approach to pre-departure COVID-19 testing across Europe.

Currently, only travellers arriving into Ireland from the UK and South Africa have to produce a negative PCR test result.

Dr Scally said he would like to see measures implemented to stop the virus from getting on to the island of Ireland.

He told On The Record with Gavan Reilly that the Government's approach to incoming travel "needs to be looked at again".

"The reason we're doing so badly is basically [having] an open-door policy," he said.

"There has been self-isolation, which really turns out to be voluntary isolation, and that's not really good enough because we know this virus is very dangerous."

Dr Scally added it was "crazy" that restrictions on travellers into Ireland from Britain can be circumvented by flying into an airport in Northern Ireland.

Ireland's 'open door' policy to travel curtailing efforts to reduce COVID-19 surge - Dr Gabriel Scally

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He reiterated comments made last October when he stated that political leaders in the Republic and Northern Ireland should commit themselves to having one coronavirus response across the whole island.

"I and many others have been calling right from the very beginning that we need an all-island approach," he said today.

Contract tracing, "though not perfect", was carried out effectively in the Republic during the second wave but in the North, there has been "hardly any" contract tracing.

He added that getting the system working efficiently and being well resourced is extremely important and it's going to be needed for "months and months" to come.

"It's not too late for the politicians to show statesmanship and stateswomanship across the entire island and get us through the next six months and this year really in an integrated way," he said.

"We're losing struggles against this virus because we're divided and we shouldn't be divided.

"If this was a disease of pigs or chicken or cattle, we would have it knocked without the slightest difficulty in an all-island approach."

Dr Scally added that the good news was that Ireland can successfully reduce the virus and infection levels.

He said: "The Republic of Ireland had a fantastic record in the autumn, it's a pity it didn't keep it down almost at zero as it was during the summer which is something a lot of people wished the Government to do but they didn't think it was possible.

"It has gone up really dramatically in the last number of weeks but avoiding a second wave in autumn was a great achievement."

He added that slowing the spread of COVID-19 will require "real iron discipline" from individuals and communities.

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

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