Call to 'curtail' travel to Italy amid coronavirus outbreak

Call to 'curtail' travel to Italy amid coronavirus outbreak

An expert in immunology, Prof Kingston Mills has called for more stringent measures to deal with the coronavirus and has asked if flights should still be going to Italy.

Commenting on the Government’s advice that people should only travel to Italy if their visit is “essential”, Prof Kingston asked “what is essential? How does an individual judge?”

It comes as a second case of the virus was confirmed in the east of the country. The patient is a woman who recently travelled back from Italy. This case is not associated with the previously identified case.

Department of Health officials, who said last night that they expect the number of isolated confirmed cases will increase further, were informed around 6pm of the second case.

Department of Health chief medical officer Tony Holohan later told reporters: “We’re confirming Ireland has diagnosed one new case of Covid-19.

“The case arises in a female in the east of the country and is associated with travel from northern Italy. We have now 397 people in total who have been tested as of Monday, March 2.”

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show, Prof Mills, the head of the centre for the study of immunology at Trinity College Dublin, also queried HSE information about the virus being transmitted only after 15 minutes in the company of an infected person.

I’m surprised at that 15 minutes figure. You could be infected in 10 seconds if a person (with the virus) sneezed on you.

Prof Mills acknowledged that the longer a person spent in the company of an infected patient, the great risk of transmission. “Fifteen minutes is an arbitrary figure.”

He warned that hand washing could give people a false sense of security. “Hand washing is one way to stop the spread of the virus, but the biggest risk is from someone coughing and sneezing in your vicinity.”

Prof Mills said he would go further with travel restrictions. “We need to look more seriously at means of curtailing travel to that region (in Italy).”

To date in Ireland, there was no evidence of local transmission and this was curtailing the spread of the virus, he said.

Prof Mills agreed it might be a good idea for diplomatic channels to suggest to the Italian government that it ask its citizens not to travel to Ireland.

It comes as Ryanair confirms "a notable drop" in flight bookings for the end of March and into next month.

"We will proactively prune our schedule to and from those airports where travel has been most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. We will continue to comply fully with guidelines from National Governments, the WHO and EASA as they are updated on a regular basis, and will update the market in due course on any significant developments."

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