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Passengers may have to undergo Covid test before travelling to Ireland

Ken Spratt admitted that some of the measures have not been as effective as hoped.


Ken Spratt, acting secretary general at the Department of Transport (Oireachtas TV)

Ken Spratt, acting secretary general at the Department of Transport (Oireachtas TV)

Ken Spratt, acting secretary general at the Department of Transport (Oireachtas TV)

Passengers travelling to Ireland may have to undergo a Covid-19 test before they depart, transport officials have said.

Ken Spratt, acting secretary general at the Department of Transport, said that officials are ramping up measures to monitor people arriving in to Ireland.

Mr Spratt admitted that some of the measures have not been as effective as hoped, including the follow-up calls to people travelling into Dublin Airport.

He said that the passenger locator form is being moved online and passengers will be required to complete the form within 48 hours of their departure date.

“We are also are putting in place a call centre which will follow up on all of the passenger locator forms that are completed,” Mr Spratt told the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response.

“That should enable us to follow up in a more robust and rigorous way.

“It is the case that we believe more could be done and we are giving the consideration to potentially introducing testing at departure point. Testing is already in place (in Dublin Airport), particularly where symptoms are presenting.”

He said that officials will be able to identify and authenticate people filling out the passenger locator form.

He also said that the call centre is due to be operational by August 10.

“We would like to increase the soft pressure at the point of departure where airlines, at time of booking and departure, would ensure that people coming in from countries that are not on the Green list, would be made aware of the need for them to restrict their movements when they arrive,” he added.

Fintan Towey, assistant secretary at the Department of Transport, said they considering introducing additional checks and controls at airports and ports.

“Our colleagues have looked at terminal screening and temperature controls, but also other tests in relation to the virus, either at point of departure or arrival,” Mr Towey added.

“If it were possible to have a conclusive test that would be a measure we could take, but the type of testing available doesn’t provide that level of assurance.

“Tests can produce a false negative result and that presents a false sense of security and increases risk of virus transmission.”

Meanwhile, representatives from public transport and taxi services have criticised the National Transport Authority (NTA) and the Government for issuing “vague” guidelines.

Gerry Macken, spokesman for Taxi Alliance of Ireland, said that taxi drivers have received “no assurances” about passengers wearing face coverings.

“The only ones we have in relation to our own safety is refusing customers where we think it might cause altercations,” he told the Committee.

“The last thing we want is to face altercations over a lack of government advice.

“We have no legal standing in relation to the mandatory wearing of face masks in taxis or any small public service vehicle which is a total disgrace.”

Jim Waldron, spokesman for the National Private Hire and Taxi Association, said 26,000 qualified drivers have been “overlooked” and are not being properly supported during the pandemic.

He said that the consequences to the industry are unknown.

Mr Waldron said: “We have very vague guidelines and  as for masks, there has been no advice given. We’ve been told we can tell people to sit in the backseat of the car but that is the only thing we have been told.

“We do feel let down by the NTA.

“There’s no nighttime business, the nightclubs are not open. 82% of drivers worked on a Friday, 16% worked late in the evenings and that work is gone.

“That’s a major problem. Most of the drivers who went on to the Covid payment are still on it. It’s allowing them to survive, but it’s not paying the bills. The car and insurance still needs to be paid for.”

He said that the restart grant is not enough to cover insurance costs alone.

“If we don’t get the grants and supports we’ll be going back to the old days where people waited 40 minutes standing in a taxi rank.”