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Foreign holidays ‘not realistic’ this summer, says chief medical officer

Dr Tony Holohan said people should head to beaches in their own area.

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Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Irish people have been warned that going on foreign holidays is “not realistic” this summer.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said people should not be heading to European or worldwide destinations over the summer months.

His remarks come after Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary claimed the airline industry will bounce back this summer, with people taking holidays abroad in July, August and September.

Dr Holohan said: “I don’t think we’re headed for a summer where millions of people from this part of the world, from Europe, can expect to be heading to beaches that are other than in their own localities.

Our lives are not going to return to normal - they're going to get better, but they're not going to return to normal for some considerable timeProfessor Philip Nolan

“I don’t think it’s realistic for us to foresee a situation that would be characterised by things we would all like to do where we fly off to other parts of Europe and the world for our summer holidays.”

Professor Philip Nolan told the National Public Health Emergency Team briefing on Monday that it would not be practical to return to life like it was before Covid until there are very high levels of vaccine-induced immunity in the population.

“Given that we cannot reduce risk of importation to zero we individually are always going to be the first line of defence for this, and until such time that we have appropriate levels of immunity in the population we will be required to make sacrifices,” he said.

“Our lives are not going to return to normal – they’re going to get better, but they’re not going to return to normal for some considerable time.”

Monday saw 10 further deaths from Covid-19 confirmed in Ireland as well as 1,062 new cases.

The national 14-day incidence rate is now 479 cases per 100,000 population.

The five-day moving average is 1,288 cases per day.

At 2pm on Monday, there were 1,436 people with coronavirus in hospital, including 207 people in intensive care.

There were 38 additional hospital admissions in a 24-hour period.

Prof Nolan said there were some concerns that case numbers – in particular the five-day moving average – had “plateaued somewhat” over the last week.

“After a very rapid decline day on day and week on week in case numbers, over the last seven or eight days case numbers have been relatively constant at around 1,300 cases a day,” he said.

Prof Nolan said it was not yet clear why cases were plateauing when there was no evidence that people had started to increase their level of social contact.

“It looks like the population is still maintaining a very strong effort to minimise mobility and keep contacts to a very low level,” he said.

“Some of it may be explained by increased testing of close contacts. On the other hand, equal concern we might be seeing increased transmissibility in particular settings… (and) we may be getting a little less careful in each of those contacts and giving the virus the opportunity to transmit.”

He said people needed to continue to adhere to public health measures, and in particular to work from home if possible.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said there were 29 outbreaks of Covid-19 in workplaces last week, including in construction, manufacturing and food processing sites.

Dr Glynn said: “Now is not the time to be going into your workplace unless you really have to.

“Every time we now drop our guard, it’s likely to have graver consequences now than it would’ve a few months ago.”

Dr Siobhain Ni Bhriain told the briefing: “We’re seeing a lot more sinusitis and a lot more people with sinusitis being diagnosed with Covid often in the absence of a temperature.”

As a result she said GPs’ threshold for testing for the virus was not “anything respiratory or a temperature and cough”.

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