Virologist says more tests needed to control spread

Five times as many Covid-19 tests are needed every day in Ireland to try to control the spread of the virus, according to a UCD virologist.

Assistant professor of virology Gerald Barry said he was concerned the Omicron variant could increase the number of cases and called the preliminary data from South Africa “troubling.”

He said caution should be exercised over the anecdotal suggestion that Omicron causes milder illness.

Dr Barry also said it was frustrating to see Ireland re-enter a cycle of increased restrictions, without significantly increasing testing and tracing efforts.

He said Covid-19 tests must be multiplied by five and that there should be contact tracing in all situations, including in schools.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor program, Dr Barry said Ireland was under-testing the population so there was no clear picture of where the transmission came from, this which results in more stringent restrictions.

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

He said the government had to plan for all “what ifs” that could arise if a third dose of the vaccine did not provide sufficient protection against Omicron.

Meanwhile, there has been a slight increase in the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19.

At 8 a.m., there were 503 patients with the virus, 16 more than at the same time yesterday.

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

The Department of Health reported 5,622 more cases of Covid-19 yesterday

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Separately, Irish passengers will not need a negative Covid-19 test before traveling to the UK, after new rules were announced by the UK government last night.

From Tuesday, all passengers entering the UK from outside the common travel area will be required to produce a negative antigen or PCR test result.

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

People traveling from the UK or from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man do not have to complete a passenger locator form, take Covid tests or self-quarantine at their arrival in England.

But these exceptions only apply to those who have not been outside the common travel area during the previous ten days.

The latest figures from the UK Health Safety Agency (HSA) showed that yesterday 26 more cases of the Omicron variant were reported across the UK, bringing the total to 160 so far.

In another move, the UK government said Nigeria was added to the travel red list after 21 cases of the Omicron variant in England were linked to travel from the West African nation.

From 4 a.m. on Monday, only UK and Irish nationals and residents from Nigeria will be allowed into the country and will be required to self-isolate in a government-run quarantine hotel.

Separate measures have entered into force in Ireland for all arriving passengers.

Anyone arriving at ports and airports from today will be required to present a negative or professionally administered PCR test result.

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