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International travellers to produce negative Covid test on arrival in Ireland

A number of new measures to fight the pandemic are to be discussed at Cabinet on Wednesday.

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Micheal Martin reiterated that schools remain safe (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Micheal Martin reiterated that schools remain safe (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Micheal Martin reiterated that schools remain safe (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Cabinet will meet on Wednesday to consider a range of new Covid-19 restrictions to curb the pandemic.

A sub-committee on Tuesday has put forward a number of new proposals, including closing schools, construction sites and creches.

A new requirement for travellers arriving in the country to produce a negative coronavirus test is also to be considered.

Travellers arriving in Ireland will have to produce a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to their journey.

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A Covid-19 test is carried out at Dublin Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)

A Covid-19 test is carried out at Dublin Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)

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A Covid-19 test is carried out at Dublin Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)

It is understood the measure will apply to people arriving from Britain and South Africa from Saturday.

It comes after reports the more virulent UK variant of Covid-19 was found in around 25% of cases in Ireland, up from the 10% previously reported.

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A separate variant, also believed to be more virulent, has also been discovered in South Africa.

Another measure to be considered is the closure of construction sites, apart from essential projects such as social housing or refurbishments.

Creches will also close but will still be available for children of essential workers.

Schools look set to close until the end of January at the earliest, as indicated by the Taoiseach on Tuesday.

It comes against the backdrop of rising coronavirus cases and admissions to hospitals and intensive care units.

Tuesday brought 17 further deaths linked to coronavirus and an additional 5,325 confirmed cases, the Department of Health said.

The Taoiseach has said he agrees with the chief medical officer that there is “an issue” with having more than one million people being “on the go” if schools reopen as planned.

Micheal Martin said “one has to really measure the advisability of doing that” given the “rapidity” of the spread of coronavirus both at home and in other jurisdictions.

He confirmed the Government is considering closing schools for the rest of the month.

On Tuesday, a post went out on the Fianna Fail social media channels appearing to confirm school closures, before it was quickly deleted.

It read: “An Taoiseach @MichealMartinTD has confirmed that schools will remain closed.

“To flatten the curve once again we all need to stay home unless for essential services.”

The Taoiseach said the Cabinet Covid sub-committee, which met on Tuesday, would examine the issue of schools “in greater detail”.

He said Cabinet would formally decide on Wednesday what measures that would be adopted.

The leaders of the coalition parties, Mr Martin, Tanaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, Green Party leader and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, and a number of other ministers and public health officers were expected to participate in the discussion.

We have to think beyond next week and the week after, we have to think to the end of the term, we have to think of the Leaving Certificate of the examinationsMicheal Martin

The Government last week made the decision to postpone the reopening of schools following the Christmas break until January 11 in the midst of the latest wave of the virus.

Mr Martin told RTE’s News at One the rapid growth of community transmission rates was “very, very serious” and that it had “exceeded any expectation”.

“We have to suppress the virus and that will mean a really significant reduction in the mobility of people in this country back to levels that we last saw in March,” he said.

“We have to say to people: you’ve got to stay at home over the next number of weeks bar essential purposes.”

The Taoiseach reiterated that schools remained “safe” and that the latest decision-making would not be in response to how the sector was performing, rather it was about “an overall societal response to a very rapid spread” of the virus in the community.

“We have to think beyond next week and the week after, we have to think to the end of the term, we have to think of the Leaving Certificate, of the examinations,” he said.

He added that special education measures for families that have children with special needs would be among the issues being deliberated.

Asked what the benchmark for reopening schools would be, Mr Martin replied that the Government wants to see the trajectory of the disease “going in the opposite direction to the one that it is going in now”.

“We need to turn this around and we will assess this again on January 30,” he said.

Mr Martin also said the potential closure of early childcare education and the construction sector would also be discussed.

The Taoiseach’s comments came as the Ombudsman for Children urged the Government to avoid a blanket closure of schools due to the disproportionately negative effect it would have on children with disabilities and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Speaking in advance of the Cabinet sub-committee meeting, Dr Niall Muldoon said: “The simple blanket closure of all schools, as happened in March last year, is not a viable option because of the massive impact it will have on our children and their families.

“Without a doubt, children with disabilities and children from disadvantaged backgrounds will once more be disproportionately affected by Covid-19 school closures, therefore any long-term measures to reduce transmission in society must consider the substantial negative impact on these groups.”


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