Dr Gabriel Scally, author of the Scally report into the CervicalCheck controversy and President of Public Health at Royal Society of Medicine has dismissed claims by Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary that it was safe to fly again.
Dr Scally told RTÉ radio’s Today programme that he did not know where Mr O’Leary had received his information, and that he was not certain that Mr O’Leary had the best interests of his customers at heart.
Earlier on another RTÉ programme, Morning Ireland, Mr O’Leary had said Ryanair was
Dr Scally said that Mr O’Leary “might have a vested interest.”
Now that Ireland was in a good position with the number of Covid cases reducing, “the last thing you need to do is to start bringing cases in from elsewhere.”
Other countries such as China, South Korea and islands like Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan had very effective quarantine measures which had made it easy to immediately identify when new cases were imported.
Dr Scally said he did not think that anyone should take public health advice from Michael O’Leary. Flying was still a mass gathering, he said. Masks would help, but even with fewer passengers there was still a risk of spreading the virus, he said. “There is no doubt in my mind.”
There remained “huge risks” when people come close together which was why the two metre physical distance guideline was important. The risk of transmission increased rapidly if that distance was reduced, he warned.
Dr Scally added that quarantine for those arriving into Ireland from overseas should be mandatory, rigorously enforced and observed. People arriving into the country needed to be seen at the airport and told in advance that it was not acceptable to get on public transport straight off a flight and there were plenty of empty hotels around airports where people could be quarantined.
Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said that Michael O’Leary was “trying to drum up business for Ryanair. He is not a public health expert.”
Ms O’Reilly said she understood that people were frustrated and wanted life to get back to normal, but it was important that any move back to normality had to be done safely, guided by public health advice.
Ireland needed to be guided by the experiences of other countries and if something was working in another country then “we need to look at that.”
Kingston Mills, professor of immunology at Trinity College, said he had “huge sympathy” for Michael O’Leary and the aviation industry, but any changes to the regulations and restrictions “had to happen in an ordered way.”
He warned that it was important not to “import” cases into Ireland from countries “not doing well” such as the US and Brazil.
“If we get the numbers down, the best way to keep it down is not to import any cases.”
Prof Kingston said that the government advice was not to travel, but that there needed to be an adaptable policy based on where the virus was at that time.