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Robust cross-border talks about travel needed in Ireland, warns expert amid coronavirus resurgence fears

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Dr Gabriel Scally

Dr Gabriel Scally

Dr Gabriel Scally

Political leaders on the island of Ireland must devise a plan around the easing of travel restrictions amid fears that it will trigger a resurgence of virus cases, a public health expert has warned.

Concerns have been raised about different restrictions around travel either side of the border. The UK has announced a list of more than 50 countries where people can travel to, and from, without needing to promise to quarantine.

While Northern Ireland is following the UK, the Republic is maintaining its quarantine policy but allowing almost unrestricted inbound travel, including from the United States, where cases in some of the states are soaring.

There have been multiple reports of US holiday makers visiting the Republic in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, countries in the EU Schengen pact have released their own lists where people can travel to and from, but still barring many others, including the US.

Dr Gabriel Scally, a professor of epidemiology and member of the independent SAGE panel, said he was not in support of either the policy in Northern Ireland or the Republic.

"I am concerned about the relaxation of controls, in particular the approach to holidays and airlines, and the absence of quarantine rules," Dr Scally said.

"All the cases at the start came by airline and there is no reason that will not manage to happen again. It is complete nonsense to be dropping our guard."

In the Republic, the rules are not tight enough, largely because it is about self policing, and there is no quarantine required if travelling into Dublin and then north, Dr Scally said.

The epidemiologist is advising that First Minister Arlene Foster, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, and Health Ministers Robin Swann and Stephen Donnelly, sit down and "have a very robust conversation."

Mr Martin has expressed his own concerns about travellers coming into the Republic from Great Britain now that the quarantine rules have been lifted.

The Republic is maintaining its quarantine policy until at least June 20, and then may announce a list.

Mr Martin told the BBC that travel off the island of Ireland at this time was "problematic".

Belfast Telegraph