Give Me a Crash Course in ... the latest Covid-19 travel restrictions

As we face into another Covid Christmas, here is what you need to know on new travel rules

A sign for a Covid-19 testing centre at  Heathrow Airport. All passengers arriving into the State will be required to have a negative Covid-19 test result. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

A sign for a Covid-19 testing centre at Heathrow Airport. All passengers arriving into the State will be required to have a negative Covid-19 test result. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

 

Happy Restrictmas, everyone! A second Covid Christmas beckons. Up and down the country people are trying to negotiate the obstacle course of socialising, intergenerational mixing and travel without getting Covid for Christmas. This is all compounded by a new and scary-sounding variant, Omicron, about which we know little but fear much.

And to think, we used to think it was stressful when it was just about trying not to incinerate the turkey and resisting the temptation to tap the tempranillo before noon.

Notwithstanding the presence of unwelcome festive virus baubles, complete with nasty new spike proteins, a lot of people will be travelling this Christmas in the shadow of new rules. So, what are those rules, and what else do you need to know?

I’m coming in from overseas. Do I need a Covid test?

Yes. The Republic has mandated that all incoming travellers (except from Northern Ireland) will need to present a negative test result in order to enter the country.

What sort of test do I need?

In a departure from advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team, the Government has decided that both PCR tests and antigen tests will be accepted. However, the antigen test has to be professionally administered – so you can’t do one yourself.

When do I need to get the test?

For an antigen test, the result must be obtained within the 48 hours prior to arrival into the State, or 72 hours for a PCR test.

Where do I get the tests?

They have to be professionally administered – so you can’t use a HSE PCR test or a self-administered antigen test. Most countries, and certainly most airports, have widespread options for private testing, including pharmacies. A simple Google search should help.

When does this new requirement come in?

The plan had been to introduce this from midnight on Thursday earlier this week but it was then postponed at the last minute to midnight on Sunday in order to allow airlines prepare for checks. The deferral enraged many weekend travellers who had already paid for tests before travelling to Ireland this weekend.

What’s the cost?

It depends where you’re flying from, and what service you use, but it seems to vary from about €30 to above €150 depending on the type of test you’re seeking, and how quickly you need the result.

What happens if I get Covid while abroad?

This can be very difficult, as much of the Munster rugby squad is finding out, having contracted Covid during their tour to South Africa. More than a dozen members of the Munster camp have been left in South Africa, as they will need a clear test before being permitted into the State.

Are there quarantine requirements?

Only if you are arriving with a travel history associated with seven southern African countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The quarantine requirements apply to those who have been in one of the countries concerned in the 14 days prior to arriving in the State. Those affected will need a clear PCR test on arrival, and you’ll be required to quarantine at a home address for 10 days. During that time you’ll need a further two clear PCR test results.

Will any other countries be added to that list?

Possibly. It would depend on the prevalence of the Omicron variant both here and where you’re coming from. For as long as Omicron remains low in Europe (there has only been a low number of cases detected on the continent, although in quite a few countries) it seems unlikely European countries would be added to the list. However, if there’s a surge of infection somewhere while our numbers stay low, that could change quickly – especially if more troubling news about Omicron’s properties emerges, adding to the case to limit importation of the variant.

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