'Real need' for North/South dialogue about travel restrictions, says Dr Gabriel Scally

Dr Gabriel Scally, President of the Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine, has said there is a “real need” for North/South dialogue about Covid-19 testing and the need for travel restrictions.
'Real need' for North/South dialogue about travel restrictions, says Dr Gabriel Scally

Dr Gabriel Scally, President of the Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine and author of the Scally report into the CervicalCheck service, has said there is a “real need” for North/South dialogue about Covid-19 testing and the need for travel restrictions.

Dr Scally told RTÉ radio’s Today programme that Ireland has an opportunity to get down to zero cases, but that cannot happen with new cases coming into the country through air ports and ferry ports.

Ireland and the UK have one of the few borders where there is no restriction and he would be in favour of restrictions, he added.

There needs to be “serious dialogue” between the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Minister for Health Simon Harris.

There is already a memorandum of agreement in place, it now needs to be implemented.

“Now is the time for those discussions to take place.”

Dr Scally said that anyone coming onto the island of Ireland should be met by public health officials to be questioned, to have their temperature taken, for a risk assessment to be taken and then if there are concerns, to be taken into quarantine.

He pointed out that there is no community testing in the UK so it is not known where there are high levels of the virus.

As a result of this contact tracing was impossible and this was putting the population of both islands at risk.

Dr Scally said he hoped that a programme could be agreed to protect the whole of the island of Ireland.

He described comments by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the lifting of restrictions and returning to work as “a confusing message” and said that he had been shocked by them.

As a public health official, he thought Mr Johnson’s comments were “pretty dangerous.”

When asked about the temporary suspension of mammograms and cervical cancer screening programmes, Dr Scally said he understood why they could not go ahead because of social distancing and the intimate nature of such examinations.

However, he said he would be concerned about women who needed smears on clinical grounds and when the service resumed, they needed to be prioritised.

Screening programmes needed to prepare to recommence and while he did not think they would be able to “catch up” they needed to start up where they left off.

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