Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said he counts himself very lucky after a mild dose of coronavirus.
e said he had the virus over the Christmas period, but was back to work after about two and a half weeks.
“Mild but unpleasant and no joke, my heart goes out to those who have suffered from it and I count myself as being very fortunate,” he told RTE’s Late Late Show.
“I do count myself very lucky in that way (that it was not more severe).”
Mild but unpleasant and no joke, my heart goes out to those who have suffered from it and I count myself as being very fortunateGarda Commissioner Drew Harris
Reacting to reports of Irish people travelling to Tenerife for dental treatment, the Commissioner said gardai have “changed their approach” at airport checkpoints.
“Medical intervention is allowed for in the regulations but that is against the clause about how reasonable it is, I would suggest that travelling to Tenerife, thousands of kilometres, whenever there are perfectly good dentists here in Ireland is not reasonable,” he said.
“From this morning we have changed our approach, we warn people that they may be prosecuted if they carry on their journey and that we do not regard a dentist’s appointment in Tenerife as a reasonable excuse to travel.”
He said he said a 500 euro fine was not the deterrent they thought it might be, but they have “found today that people have turned back rather than be prosecuted and risk imprisonment or a suspended sentence”.
“We hope that that will send a message in terms of non essential international travel,” he said.
Mr Harris said the force went through a “bad period” at the start of January with Covid, but said it is now 95% operational, compared with 97% in “normal times”.
“We have about 200-300 who are either suffering from Covid or self isolating,” he said.
“We have good strong operational capabilities … and you can see the amount of work we are doing out on the ground.”
He said there has been a reduction in cross border traffic by between 10-12% since the Garda were given powers to fine people travelling between counties without a “reasonable excuse”.
“That is significant, but we won’t know fully until we have seen a couple of weekends when you see accelerated amounts of movement,” he said.
“But travellers from anywhere, including Northern Ireland, must have an essential purpose for their journey.
“It is not a hard border insomuch as people can travel backwards and forwards if they can show an essential purpose.
“We work closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and if we are working close to the border we work in partnership with them.”
Mr Harris has been Garda Commissioner since September 2018.
What I want to be sure is that however long I am here that I have left the organisation stronger and in a better placeDrew Harris
He said he has had a “very, very positive experience” so far half way through his first term in the role.
“My contract said five years so whether I get a second term or not is probably for others to determine,” he said.
“What I want to be sure is that however long I am here that I have left the organisation stronger and in a better place.”
He previously served as deputy chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
“I think a lot of my experience in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, dealing with crisis and critical situations, has helped me and prepared me for this particular national crisis that we’re all facing,” he added.