Knock latest airport to weigh introducing pre-flight Covid-19 tests

Travel agents back moves as DAA in talks about testing facilities in Cork and Dublin airports

DAA, responsible for Dublin and Cork airports, is in talks with providers about establishing pre-departure testing facilities in both. Photograph: iStock

DAA, responsible for Dublin and Cork airports, is in talks with providers about establishing pre-departure testing facilities in both. Photograph: iStock

 

Knock has emerged as the latest airport to weigh introducing pre-flight coronavirus tests for departing passengers.

State company DAA is known to be in talks with providers on the possibility of opening pre-departure testing facilities at Cork and Dublin airports.

Ireland West Airport Knock confirmed on Wednesday that it was in talks with Government and other stakeholders on pre-departure testing.

The company added that it would take direction on the best approach from the Health Service Executive and Government.

System

Test results confirming that passengers are virus-free could form part of a proposed EU system designed to reignite travel across the bloc that member states’ foreign ministers could approve next month.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed earlier this week that the Republic intended taking part in the new system, which is designed to end conflicting restrictions that have halted travel’s recovery across the EU.

Earlier on Thursday, the Irish Travel Agents’ Association (ITAA) called for passengers leaving the Republic to undergo routine pre-flight tests as an alternative to quarantines.

The association said that this would cut the risk of transmitting the virus and help re-establish air travel following a difficult six months for the industry.

While the ITAA acknowledged that this was unlikely to become a permanent part of air travel, it argued that it was needed to help re-establish the business.

Pat Dawson, association chief executive, agreed that pre-flight tests would involve challenges.

“However, we believe that this method is worth implementing in order to restore consumer confidence in international travel,” he said.

Restrictions

Mr Dawson pointed out that current restrictions, involving 14-day quarantines for people arriving here from most other countries, “provide no relief for either inbound or outbound travel”.

He warned that this would hit the Irish travel industry well into the future.

DAA, responsible for Cork and Dublin airports, is in talks with providers about establishing pre-departure testing facilities in both.

The State company is also discussing this with relevant Government departments and agencies.

Under the system, it is understood that passengers would get tested several days before flying, presenting confirmation that they are clear of the virus to their airlines and to immigration officials at their destination. People will have to pay for the tests themselves.

Similarly, those flying here from other EU regions deemed to have high risks of infection would have to show test results confirming that they are negative before flying here and, on arrival, to immigration officials.

Tests

Shannon Airport did not say if it was considering pre-departure tests. “We are working closely with the Department of Transport officials and exploring options,” said a spokesman.

The EU’s proposed travel framework classifies regions as green, amber and red, according to their infection and transmission rates. The European Centre for Disease Control and EU Aviation Safety Agency would determine each location’s classification.

That would require travellers from higher risk locations to get tested before flying.

The system would avoid universal testing, but allow EU jurisdictions to apply safeguards for travellers from higher risk regions.

Speaking this week, Mr Varadkar, said that the State’s own coronavirus testing resources were needed by the HSE.