Dublin and Cork airports look at setting up pre-flight Covid testing centres
Pre-departure testing could be available at both airports from next month
Passengers departing from the Republic to other EU countries could be obliged to have a confirmed negative Covid test result before travelling. Similarly, those arriving in the State from other parts of the EU could require a confirmed negative test to fly here. Photograph; Getty Images
Authorities at Dublin and Cork airports are in talks about opening pre-departure Covid-19 testing units in the airports.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed on Wednesday that the Republic would join a proposed EU plan to boost travel by eliminating conflicting restrictions in a move that could require passengers to take Covid tests days before flying.
DAA, which runs Dublin and Cork airports, is understood to be in talks with independent providers about establishing pre-departure Covid testing facilities in the two airports.
The State-owned airports company is discussing how the system would work in practice with Government and State agencies.
Depending on how talks progress, pre-departure testing could be available at both airports from some point next month, when the EU hopes to implement its new travel framework.
Any final decision on pre-flight testing would fall to the Government, not the airports company.
The EU is proposing to grade different regions as green, amber or red according to their Covid infection and transmission rates, with green being the lowest risk and red the highest.
Passengers departing from the Republic to other EU countries could be obliged to have a confirmed negative Covid test result before travelling. Similarly, those arriving in the State from other parts of the EU could require a confirmed negative test to fly here.
Those intending to travel from the Republic could go to the facilities in Cork or Dublin airports some days before departing to get tested. They could then present confirmation of their negative test to their airline and to the immigration services at their destination.
Similarly, Irish airlines and immigration officials would accept negative test confirmations from those travelling from other EU states.
Passengers would pay for the tests themselves. Clinics could also provide tests where people have difficulty travelling to either airport.
The EU system hopes to eliminate any need to test all travellers by allowing states to focus on ensuring those arriving in their jurisdictions from high-risk areas are clear of the virus.
A DAA spokesman confirmed that the company had briefed Government departments and key agencies on pre-departure test proposals. He noted those talks were continuing.
Mr Varadkar confirmed that EU foreign ministers hoped to agree the framework by mid-October. He said he favoured no restrictions for those travelling from green regions. “There will be flexibility for how different countries will deal with amber and red,” he added.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen proposed the system recently, suggesting that regions with infection rates of less than 25 per 100,000 be classed as green.
Rates in many parts of the EU are now higher than this proposed benchmark. Mr Varadkar said this presented foreign ministers with a “tricky” question of whether to set the green benchmark at a higher level.
Airports Council International Europe, of which the DAA is a member, joined 24 other aviation groups this week in calling on Ms von der Leyen to introduce EU-wide testing protocols.