Bulgarian fruit pickers flown into Dublin all screened by doctors, says Keelings

‘Ryanair and Dublin Airport can confirm that all regulations were adhered to’ - statement

Dr Tony Holohan has said that the chartering of flights to bring workers into the country is "not consistent with the public health advice", when asked about the Keelings/Ryanair controversy. Video: RTE News Now


Almost 200 Bulgarian fruit pickers flown into Dublin this week were all screened by doctors before they travelled, their employer has said.

Following an outpouring of concern in the context of Covid-19, Keelings strawberry producer said the 189 seasonal workers also had their temperature checked before entry.

Ryanair and Dublin Airport can confirm that all regulations were adhered to. They were taken straight to their housing. In accordance with HSE guidelines, they cannot work for 14 days after their arrival and their movements are restricted,” it said in a statement issued as an attempt to quell mounting concerns over the arrival of a relatively large number of people into the country.

The workers flew on a charter Ryanair flight from Sofia to Dublin on Monday.

Keelings employs about 900 temporary horticulture workers during the main fruit and vegetable season from April to October - about 70 per cent return each year.


“We will take care of these colleagues as we take care of all of our people, permanent or temporary,” the company said.

“They will be subject to further medical screening before they start work at Keelings. We will continue to consult with the HSE and other appropriate agencies to ensure both our staff and the communities they live in remain safe.”

The arrival of the workers in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and stringent public movement restrictions has caused some anxiety in the area in which many of them are living.

The issue prompted Fianna Fáil to call for clarity as regards the movement of people through airports, while People Before Profit said formal inspections were required “to insure the workers are housed and working in conditions which will allow for social distancing and isolation if needed”.

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said urgent clarity is required “about quarantine measures for seasonal workers who are arriving in Ireland”.

No distancing

Earlier in the week, a letter addressed to a Meath councillor, purporting to be from a Ryanair employee, said the chartered flight from Sofia on Monday had 189 passengers.

“There was no social distancing on board, putting all the cabin crew at risk, there was also 200 bags in the hold of the aircraft putting the ground handling agents at risk,” the letter claimed.

“I find this quite unsettling for myself and all my work colleagues as it’s putting us at risk and [causing] extra stress which we should not have to deal with it during this time of Covid-19.”

At Dublin Airport, passenger traffic is down by 99 per cent. A spokesman for DAA, which runs the airport, said on Wednesday fewer than 280 passengers were due to land. That figure compares to about 50,000 at this time of the year in normal circumstances.