Epidemiology expert Scally pours cold water on foreign holidays

The president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, Professor Gabriel Scally, has poured cold water on tourists flying in and out of Ireland during the holiday period.
Epidemiology expert Scally pours cold water on foreign holidays
Gabriel Scally: "This is a public health emergency and I very strongly feel public health concerns have to trump airline worries."

The president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, Professor Gabriel Scally, has poured cold water on tourists flying in and out of Ireland during the holiday period.

However, the Irish Travel Agents Association  -ITTA- said  Irish holidaymakers can afford to become hopeful at the prospect of going abroad this summer, but shouldn't become too excited or expectant at this point.

ITAA chief executive  Pat Dawson said it was never more apparent that experts in the field were necessary for would-be holidaymakers and he is still hopeful that the industry could take off soon.

Professor Scally said so-called 'air bridges' with countries that have managed to control the virus would be favourable, but that abandoning quarantines was not advisable.

People must currently self-quarantine for 14 days after entering Ireland, which has put off most would-be tourists from either leaving or entering the country.

European countries such as Croatia, Spain, Portugal, Germany and France remain tantalisingly close for Irish holidaymakers, having begun to cautiously reopen their tourism industries last month.

The Aviation Recovery Taskforce convened by Government has recommended ending the quarantine in July, saying Ireland was significantly behind other European countries when it came to travel restriction.

Professor Scally told RTÉ's Sarah McInerney: "I doubt if very many people outside the aviation industry would think that is a sensible thing to do. We need to keep up the barriers at the moment.

“I think the way forward is first of all to have a zero Covid island of Ireland, and then to make the travel links with other places with a similarly good situation. This is a public health emergency and I very strongly feel public health concerns have to trump airline worries.

"Of course people can come, but there has to be satisfactory quarantine arrangements to make sure we are not importing cases. That’s how it got here in the first place. It was imported by air. We don’t need new cases when things are going really well domestically. We don’t need a second wave."

Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association, remains optimistic people can enjoy foreign trips this summer.
Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association, remains optimistic people can enjoy foreign trips this summer.

Speaking following Professor Scally's comments, Mr Dawson said travel agents were very mindful of the advice from public health experts, but that the industry had to look towards a semblance of normality.

"Airbridges are a good idea, as we cannot just turn on the routes tomorrow morning and fly as normal. But July 9 or 16 would give us time to put all our preparations in place, so that travel in and out of Ireland is coordinated.

"This applies to inward tourism as well as outward. They have to go glove in hand. Sensible precautions can and will be taken."

Mr Dawson urged would-be holidaymakers to use travel agents to book their trips, saying all the due diligence would be done beforehand so that tourists would not be left aggrieved by substandard venues abroad when they got there.

"We have people on the ground all the time, working 24/7 to ensure Irish tourists know exactly what they are getting, and that there are no unpleasant surprises such as closed facilities when they get there."

He warned those determined to take a holiday abroad to make sure to use Irish-bonded travel firms.

"This is vital. Irish companies based in Ireland will ensure you have access to proper refunds if there is a problem, and takes the hassle out of chasing down firms not bonded and licensed here. You might book with a Dutch company or an English company that seem to have a base here, but look further -- they will be licensed and bonded in their respective own jurisdictions," Mr Dawson said.

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