Just 95 arrivals at Dublin Airport had no negative Covid tests

Department says ‘vast majority’ of 80,000 arrivals since Sunday had correct records

Since the weekend, all people arriving into the State who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 must have a negative test result. Photograph: iStock

Since the weekend, all people arriving into the State who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 must have a negative test result. Photograph: iStock

 

Spot checks at Dublin Airport since Sunday have found that 95 people did not have records showing negative Covid-19 tests and five had false papers, an Oireachtas committee was told.

Since the weekend, all people arriving into the State who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 must have a negative test result, either a professionally administered antigen test taken no more than 48 hours before arrival or a PCR test no more than 72 hours before arrival.

A Department of Justice official told the Oireachtas transport committee that out of 80,000 passengers arriving into Dublin Airport during the first three days of the new testing regulations, just 100 people were found either not to have the required papers or with false test results.

Oonagh Buckley, the department’s deputy secretary general, said the “vast, vast majority of people” had the correct paperwork when they were spot-checked by border control officials.

She told the committee that the 100 people who were found not to have records showing a negative test or who had false paperwork were referred to the Garda for possible prosecution because failure to have the required paperwork was a criminal offence under Covid-19 rules.

“As a travelling passenger, you can have absolutely no certainty at any point in time that you will not be checked by a border management person or immigration control person,” she said.

“If you arrive at a border check and you don’t have it, you have committed a criminal offence and you will be referred on to the Gardaí and you may be prosecuted.”

Fines start at €4,000 or one month in prison for a first offence. Most of the 100 people were travelling into the State on Irish airlines and about three-quarters of them were travelling from Britain. A “high majority” were Irish citizens.

Spot checks

Ms Buckley told TDs and Senators that more than 10 per cent of people passing through Dublin Airport over the past three days were subject to spot checks for negative test results.

For some flights, immigration officials were checking as many as 100 per cent of people arriving into the airport but, at some times, less than 10 per cent of each flight was checked, she said.

On Sunday nights, 25 flights arrive into the airport in just 85 minutes and if 10 per cent of each flight was checked, it would result in “very long queues at midnight on a Sunday”, she said.

Ms Buckley said a “tiny number” of false EU Digital Covid Certs showing vaccination status had been detected by immigration officials and those people had been referred for prosecution.

A slightly higher number of false or wrong PCR tests have been detected since the testing requirement came into force as an alternative to the EU Digital Covid Cert.

“Staff are very good at detecting false papers. They get used to seeing what’s correct and what isn’t,” she said.