Options considered to restrict non-essential travel to Ireland

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By Catherine Wylie and Rebecca Black, PA

Proposals on how to restrict non-essential travel from countries outside the UK and European Union are being prepared for the Irish Government, the Health Minister has said.

Stephen Donnelly said he is concerned about high rates of coronavirus in some places, and said options will be finalised "as soon as possible".

The Health Minister said that the number of travel-related cases in Ireland remains small but added that the risk is increasing.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Donnelly said: "Many are asking about travel/tourists coming into Ireland from countries with high Covid rates.

"My Dept is preparing options for Gov on how to restrict non-essential travel from third countries (outside EU/UK) with high rates of Covid. Am concerned about high rates in some places

"These options will be finalised as soon as possible. While travel related cases here remain small, some countries are seeing a rapid rise in cases so the risk is increasing.

"Once proposals are finalized they will be presented to Gov for discussion."

The so-called green list of countries that could be travelled to and from without movement restrictions has already been shortened from the previous 15 to 10.

The countries removed from the list were Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino.

Meanwhile, it was announced on Friday night that Kildare, along with counties Laois and Offaly, will face further lockdown restrictions for the next fortnight following a spate of cases.

O'Brien's Fine Foods, a meat processing plant at Timahoe in Co Kildare, halted production last week after dozens of workers tested positive for coronavirus and will remain closed for two weeks.

In a statement on Sunday morning, O'Briens Fine Foods said it wished to reaffirm that in line with public health guidance, normal operations at its Timahoe plant will not resume for the 14-day incubation period.

It stopped production on Wednesday night after a number of workers tested positive.

The statement said: "In consultation with the HSE, our warehousing facility and minimal related operations will function at significantly reduced capacity levels to manage perishable goods.

"In line with public health guidance, in addition to testing undertaken to date, a further programme of employee testing will be conducted on days seven and 14 (as necessary). Only those employees who test negative and meet public health guidelines in full will return to work. All staff will continue to be paid in full."

Some 87 workers had tested positive for the virus by Friday.

The company said: "In all cases, the level of asymptomatic infectivity appears to be very high.

"Those who have tested positive have been advised to isolate as per the official guidance. Full risk assessment and contract tracing procedures is continuing. All close contacts of those affected are being notified, advised to self-isolate and to contact their GP.

"We wish to thank our team, the community of Timahoe, our customers and suppliers for their support and understanding. This sudden spike is difficult to comprehend for all of us."

One further death with Covid-19 in Ireland and 174 new cases were reported by the Department of Health on Saturday.

Of the latest cases, the majority (110) are located in Kildare, followed by Dublin (seven), Cork (seven), Offaly (seven) and Meath (six).

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn described Saturday's figures as "high, but not unexpected", with further testing under way.

"We are expecting significant numbers of cases to be reported over the coming days," he added.

Professor Philip Nolan, chairman of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, described the 14-day incidence per 100,000 population in Kildare, Laois and Offaly as "worryingly high".

He said: "While the national incidence stands at 16.3 per 100,000, in Kildare it stands at 130.3, in Laois it is 69.7 and in Offaly it is 89.8."

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