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staycations Sacrificing foreign holidays until later this summer is the price we must pay for reopening the country


Dr Tony Holohan said non-essential travel should be avoided

Dr Tony Holohan said non-essential travel should be avoided

Dr Tony Holohan said non-essential travel should be avoided

Sacrificing a foreign holiday until later this summer may be the price paid for allowing the country to enjoy the reopening of pubs and restaurants next month, it emerged yesterday.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the faster-spreading Indian variant of coronavirus was a “black cloud” but indicated there were no signs yet that the planned next phase of lockdown easing will not go ahead here next month.

However, amid rising cases of the variant in the UK, he said one way of heading off a potential problem of the growing spread of the virus here was to avoid non-essential travel.

This suggests Ireland might have to stay in its own ‘bubble’ with mandatory hotel quarantine and no holidays abroad until later this summer in order that planned domestic easing of lockdown can go ahead.

Dr Holohan spoke of buying time – and rolling out the vaccine over July and August – while slowing the progress of the variant.

“For the most part the sky is blue, but with a black cloud on the horizon which is the Indian variant,” he said.

Prevention needs to be “applied before we have a problem”, Dr Holohan stressed.

He said he needed to “raise a flag” at this point about the potential impact of the variant.

The key recommendations on the road ahead in June will be made next Thursday when the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) meets.

It comes as a new report from Public Health England looks set to suggest that having just one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine offers partial protection against the variant although the exact details have yet to emerge.

There have been 72 cases of the Indian variant – up from 41 detected last week – found here so far in people who have travelled from Britain and the Indian subcontinent prior to mandatory hotel quarantine being introduced here.

Asked if travellers from Britain should be added to the hotel quarantine list, Dr Holohan said it would be kept under review.

He said a high proportion of the population is still to be vaccinated and there is a need for people to follow basic public health measures such as the wearing of masks, while public health teams put high priority on tracking foreign variants.

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However, overall the Covid-19 situation here is stable, with 107 patients in hospital, including 38 in intensive care.

A further 524 new cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday, although the health service cyber attack has affected the reliability of the data.

The overall situation remains at around the same level it was at last week.

Professor Pete Lunn, who studies human behaviour at the Economic and Social Research Institute, said there is evidence of more forms of social activity. More people are going to work, there are more visits to homes, individuals are meeting with more people from outside their household, and there are higher numbers of close contacts. “This is to be expected as restrictions lift,” Prof Lunn said. “However, the data also reveals that these increases are much stronger among people who have been vaccinated.

“Most people who are not yet vaccinated are continuing to be cautious. Our data are consistent with the majority of people waiting until they are vaccinated before increasing their activity again.”

The research found that 45pc of people had not met another person outside their household in the previous 48 hours.

Meanwhile, people who had blood clots with low platelets after their first AstraZeneca shot should not receive the second dose, according to the European Medicines Agency.

Fewer than five of these have been linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine here.

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