Virologist says more tests are needed to control the spread

Five times more Covid-19 testing per day is needed in Ireland to try to control the spread of the virus, according to a UCD virologist.

Associate Professor of Virology Gerald Barry said he was concerned that the Omicron variant could cause an increase in the number of cases, and described the initial data from South Africa as «alarming.»

He said there was a need to be careful about the anecdotal suggestion that Omicron causes milder disease.

Dr Barry also said it was disappointing to see Ireland once again entering a cycle of increasing restrictions, without significantly increasing testing and tracing efforts.

He said Covid-19 testing needs to be multiplied five times, and there should be contact tracing in all settings, including in schools.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor, Dr Barry said Ireland is testing the population, so there is no clear picture of the source of transmission, which leads to stricter restrictions.

He said Ireland is in a much better position with regard to Covid-19 this winter than last year, but more planning is needed for what lies ahead.

He said the government needed to plan for any «what if» that could arise if a third dose of the vaccine did not provide adequate protection against Omicron.

The Ministry of Health has reported 5,156 cases of Covid-19.

There has been a slight rise in the number of people in hospitals with Covid-19.

As of 8 a.m., there were 503 patients with the virus, an increase of 16 at the same time yesterday.

There are 110 patients in intensive care units with Covid-19, down four from yesterday.

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Separately, Irish passengers will not need to test negative for Covid-19 before traveling to the UK, after the British government yesterday evening announced new rules.

From Tuesday, all passengers arriving into the UK, from outside the Common Travel Area, will be required to produce a negative antigen test result or a PCR test.

The British government said it was to be a temporary measure after new data showing an increase in the number of cases of the new Omicron variant linked to overseas travel.

People traveling from within the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man do not have to fill out a passenger locator form or take any Covid-19 tests or quarantine on arrival in England.

But these exceptions only apply to those who have not been outside the common travel area in the past 10 days.

The latest figures from the UK’s Health Security Agency (HSA) as of yesterday showed that another 26 cases of the Omicron variant had been reported across the UK – bringing the total number so far to 160.

In a further step, the British government said Nigeria was added to its travel red list after 21 cases of Omicron in England were linked to travel from the West African country.

From 4am on Monday, only British and Irish nationals and residents traveling from Nigeria are allowed into the country and must isolate in a government-run quarantine hotel.

Separate measures have come into effect in Ireland for all arriving passengers.

Anyone arriving at ports and airports as of today will be required to submit a negative PCR test result or a professionally administered antigen test result.

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