Q&A: How are Covid travel rules being policed at Irish airports?

A policy or spot-checking for health documentation is operating at Dublin Airport

The Department of Justice says the Border Management Unit at Dublin Airport has significantly increased the level of spot-checking of arriving passengers in recent days. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The Department of Justice says the Border Management Unit at Dublin Airport has significantly increased the level of spot-checking of arriving passengers in recent days. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Many airline passengers have recounted their experiences this week of travelling through Irish airports without being asked for documentation relating to Covid controls. But what exactly are the rules for travel, and how are they meant to be policed?

Ireland imposed new travel restrictions last week to respond to the potential threat of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

All people travelling to Ireland are required by law to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) prior to travel.

Information sought includes the mobile phone number the person will be using in Ireland, email address, place of residence while in the country and flight or ferry details.

People are required to declare if they have proof of vaccination or of recovery from Covid-19 in the past 180 days.

What else do passengers need?

From December 5th those travelling into Ireland must have evidence of a pre-departure negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival or evidence of a professionally administered antigen test taken no more than 48 hours prior to arrival.

After completing a PLF a receipt is sent via email and passengers should be asked by their airline or ferry company to show this before boarding a plane or ferry.

How is it being policed?

The Department of Transport will tell the Oireachtas Transport Committee on Wednesday that it has engaged with all carriers on the introduction of the requirement that all arrivals to Ireland produce evidence a negative Covid-19 test.

The Department told the carriers of the additional requirements to carry out pre-boarding checks for compliance.

Passengers may be required to show their EU Digital Covid Certificate - which shows they are either fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 as well as proof of a negative test when they arrive at Dublin Airport.

All passengers arriving into Ireland were checked for health documentation prior to the reopening of non-essential travel on July 19th. However, spot checking was implemented after that to avoid long queues at immigration.

The Department of Justice says the Border Management Unit at Dublin Airport has significantly increased the level of spot-checking of arriving passengers in recent days.

This has not resulted in any significant increase in detections of non-compliance and compliance rates are said to be “very high”.

What additional rules are there for people travelling from “scheduled states” that have been linked to the Omicron outbreaks?

From the start of December there has been a requirement on passengers coming from seven southern African countries to home quarantine on arrival to Ireland.

The countries are South Africa - where Omicron was first officially identified - Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Post-arrival PCR tests are required for all passengers from these scheduled countries on day two and day eight without exemption.

The HSE contacts passengers to arrange PCR testing using the details they provided on their PLF.

If the post arrival tests are negative the individual can leave home quarantine at day ten.

If the test is positive the passenger is required to home quarantine for 10 days from the date of the positive test.

Is anyone checking that people are quarantining at home?

It is unclear what level of monitoring there is on compliance with the home quarantine rules.

The Irish Times sent a query to the Department of Health and other Departments on the matter but they did not immediately reply.

There were significant levels of non-compliance when home quarantine rules were previously in place.

Almost half of passengers that arrived last December and in early January, who were contacted by phone to confirm their place of residence either failed or refused to do so.

The Dáil has passed legislation allowing for the return of Mandatory Hotel Quarantine (MHQ) if the Government believes it is needed for a limited time.