Government adopting ‘fingers crossed’ approach to travel

Murphy tells Dáil of risk of importing Covid-19 with no testing regime at ports and airports

Ireland this weekend joins the European ‘traffic light’ system for international travel. File photograph: Kate Geraghty

Ireland this weekend joins the European ‘traffic light’ system for international travel. File photograph: Kate Geraghty

 

The Government is taking a “fingers crossed” approach to international air travel without a Covid-19 testing system at ports and airports, the Dáil has been warned.

Ireland this weekend joins the European “traffic light” system for international travel and Social Democrats joint leader Catherine Murphy expressed concern that there is no system in place for testing for Covid-19.

She said it would be of major importance in the run-up to Christmas.

“We know that international travel is a known risk,” she said, with one case in Ireland leading to 56 infections.

“We’re due to adopt the EU traffic light system for international travel this Sunday,” she said.

“We know that this traffic light system requires a domestic approach to the wider European system.

“But in the absence of testing at ports and airports, we’re effectively taking a fingers-crossed approach,” Ms Murphy said.

She asked if a plan for it was available now. “How long will it take us to put that plan in place in a practical sense?” she asked.

“We need to know what is going to be put in place. We don’t want to come back in a number of weeks’ time having discovered that this is a known risk that we haven’t properly mitigated.’

“Some 400,000 Covid locator forms were submitted between September 1st and October 30th. That is a considerably reduced level of traffic movement but it is still a significant number of people.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told her that the percentage of international travellers testing positive had been very small.

Irish people travelling internationally should only do so for work or education or for a compassionate reason, he said.

“The European traffic light system is a green, orange, and red map. It is done by region, rather than by country, and that determines the rules.

“There is no requirement to be tested or to quarantine for travel into Ireland from a green area.

“For an amber area, you can avoid the 14-day restricted movements requirement if you’ve a prior negative PCR test.

“For the red areas, you have to restrict your movements for at least five days, and then have a negative PCR test at that point.”

He said the aim of putting in controls on travel from amber and red areas was to reduce the risk of the virus being reseeded into the country.