Covid-19: Only one in four visitors is contacted to check compliance

Concern voiced as data shows vast majority of travellers are from outside green list countries

Joint leader of Social Democrats Róisín Shortall: only a quarter of incoming passengers were contacted.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Joint leader of Social Democrats Róisín Shortall: only a quarter of incoming passengers were contacted. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

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An Opposition TD has expressed concern about the possible spread of Covid-19 after new figures showed the vast majority of the 370,000 passengers who have arrived in Ireland since August came from countries not on the Government’s travel green list.

Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, said that only a quarter of incoming passengers were contacted by the service tasked with checking compliance with requirements for people to quarantine for 14 days after arrival from countries not on the list.

“With the large number of people travelling from non-green list countries, and without controls, there must be a high probability of imported cases,” she said.

Responses to a series of parliamentary questions – by Ms Shortall to the Ministers for Health, Transport and Justice – show that 371,494, people arrived into the State between August 1st and September 14th, most from countries not on the green list.

Passenger locator form

Until August 26th, incoming passengers had to fill out a passenger locator form on arrival, providing contact details and telling authorities where they would be staying during their quarantine period. However, just 7 per cent of these were phoned and only half of that group answered the call.

A mandatory electronic passenger locator form was introduced on August 26th around the same time that a call centre was established to follow up with passengers.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told Ms Shortall that in its first week of operation – when 59,605 people arrived in through airports – some 70,000 text messages were sent out and 13,000 calls were made to a “sample” of incoming passengers.

Those required to quarantine received three texts with public health messages during their isolation periods. There was no data available on the proportion of people who answered the calls.

Text reliance

Ms Shortall said the reliance on texts and the fact only a quarter of the incoming passengers were contacted did not give reassurance that there was wholesale compliance with quarantine requirements.

“Following the tightening of restrictions on domestic travel for people in Dublin, it’s clear that huge numbers of people are entering Ireland from non-green list countries on an ongoing basis and that most of them come through Dublin Airport,” she said.

“How can we be sure that incoming passengers are complying with guidance on isolation without actually checking on their location?

“It is unfair on people in Ireland who have sacrificed so much over the past few months, especially for those in Dublin now being asked to not leave their county, to forge ahead with a very lax system for monitoring international passengers when Covid-19 case numbers are sharply on the rise.”

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