Limerick woman describes frenzied return to South Africa amid Omicron panic

“Our phones were going crazy, I was seriously hoping we weren’t going to be on Omicron’s positive list in Ireland,” said Marie O’Riordan, who has just come out of isolation after returning from Africa. South with his partner last month. , and negative test for the new variant.

Originally from Limerick and now living in Kildare, Ms O’Riordan flew to South Africa in October as part of a volunteer trip, to deliver school supplies to The Little Leaps Kindergarten for Youth autistic children near Pretoria.

She and her partner Corné Moll filled out passenger locator forms in Gauteng province before returning home on November 3, and a few weeks later the first case of the Omicron variant was reported there.

“When Tony Holohan announced in retrospect that anyone coming from southern Africa since November 1 was to immediately self-isolate and have a new PCR test, our phones started ringing like crazy,” Ms. O’Riordan said.

“For Tony Holohan to make the announcement and our phones to start ringing almost like a coordinated response, it felt very structured and organized. It was good to see that the wheels were turning and in retrospect the travelers from southern Africa were isolated, ”she added.

Ms O’Riordan and her partner immediately isolated themselves when contacted by the HSE and were promptly subjected to PCR tests, which have since come back negative for both.

Marie O’Riordan with the staff of Little Leaps Pre-School for Young Children with Autism

She described the extra level of caution people reacted with when she told them she was being tested for the Omicron variant.

“I walked into the test center and made an open disclosure, said look, I’m back from Africa, and I was immediately taken in the car to an area far from the test center. , and I immediately reported a red flag, which was appropriate.

“It was funny, the paper they put on my windshield fell off, and I got out of the car to pick it up, and caused an emergency. They must have come with decontamination gloves, removed the piece of paper, put it in the contaminated waste, take a new piece of paper and warn me not to touch anything!
“We also had to be direct with all of our neighbors and tell them look, we’re isolating ourselves, we’re back from South Africa and waiting for a test – then I texted the neighborhood again saying we’re all negative. She said.

Ms O’Riordan said that while South Africa has honored the importance of transparency in reporting the new variant, she believes it is important for recent travelers to speak up if there is a possibility whether they are infected with Omicron.

“We have no problem isolating ourselves and doing the right thing, but my partner is South African and has reportedly seen in online social media groups people who have come to Ireland in recent days and who do not don’t want to do a test, they’re ‘I’m saying it’s nobody’s business, and I’m saying it’s highly irresponsible,’ she added.

“I think transparency is important when it’s appropriate, and I think that was very important with Omicron, we don’t know what we’re dealing with yet.”

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