Ireland’s chief medical officer has advised the public against non-essential travel to the UK amid concerns over the Delta variant.
The advice does not yet include travel to Northern Ireland from the Republic but public health chiefs say they are “concerned” about the situation across the border.
Dr Tony Holohan said he will consult with his colleagues in Northern Ireland on Friday, which will inform their ongoing consideration of the situation.
He told a public health briefing on Thursday: “We’re strongly advising against non-essential travel between here and the UK, because of the concerns in terms of transmission of the Delta variant.”
He said the advice did not yet apply to Northern Ireland.
He added: “The seven-day incidence that we’ve seen across Northern Ireland, and particularly Derry, in recent days, we know it will be of concern to our colleagues in Northern Ireland and it is of concern to us.
“We are expressing our concern about that. We haven’t formally advised on that at this moment in time. We’re keeping a very close eye on that.”
There are currently 188 confirmed cases of the Delta variant in Ireland, but Dr Holohan said efforts to contain the spread are having an impact.
“We think that the measures that we’re taking at the moment, on the basis of the evidence that we have, are having an impact,” he said.
“Our public health teams are doing really good work around the country, picking up those cases when importations occur.
“And putting in place effective contact tracing arrangements that limit the onwards transmission and spread of those infections here.
“The arrangements that are in place at border level, including responding to the advice to not travel, are all helping to prevent us, so far, from slipping into the kind of transmission pattern that is now unfortunately is being seen in many part of the UK.”
Dr Holohan said there is a challenge in Northern Ireland with the Delta variant, which was first identified in India and made up in excess of 20% of new cases in the most recent data available.
He said people should take the situation into account, when taking personal decisions on travel.
“We can already see that there is a significant change in the spread of infection in some parts of Northern Ireland, including in the region of Derry, where the seven-day incidence is in the region of about 130 per 100,000.
“On the island of Ireland, that would be one of the highest incidences we’re experiencing.
“And so, no more than anywhere else within the country, people should take all those things into account.”
Despite this, the situation in the Republic remains broadly positive, with infections collapsing among the vaccinated.
Dr Holohan said: “We are now experiencing near elimination of Covid-19 in the vaccinated population.
“For the 50-65s who are in the process of receiving protection from full vaccination, incidence is dropping.
“Incidence is also reducing in most age groups, showing commendable compliance with public health measures as the vaccination programme is rolled out to more and more people.
“If you are fully-vaccinated you can safely resume normal life – meeting other fully vaccinated people from up to two households indoors without masks or social distancing, and meeting unvaccinated people from one other household indoors and without masks.
“Those of us awaiting vaccination should continue to wash/sanitise hands regularly, manage contacts, avoid crowds, wear masks where appropriate and socialise outdoors.”
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