Checking on arrivals

 

Sir, – Róisín Shortall TD is quite right to point out that the public cannot have confidence in a system intended to protect public health when that system is not taken seriously by those charged with its operation (“Only 4,100 checks made on 60,000 arrivals”, News, July 22nd). This is just the latest very sick joke in our administrative response to the pandemic.

As Ms Shortall points out, 7 per cent of the 60,000 arrivals in Dublin Airport in the first two weeks in July received a follow-up call and 50 per cent of those deigned to answer. The Department of Justice says that, since traffic volumes rose at the start of July, the Border Management Unit (BMU) charged with making calls “had to concentrate on their core immigration duties” and the department was awaiting handover of the process to the Department of Health.

Dublin Airport had 3.5 million passenger movements in July 2019. A rough estimate is that 875,000 of these were arriving passengers who had to be dealt with by the BMU in the first two weeks of July 2019. But the arrival of 60,000 passengers in the first half of this month (7 per cent of last year’s number) meant that those labouring in the BMU were run off their feet and could find time between them to make less than 300 telephone calls per day.

Of course, the real story here is a stand-off between the Department of Justice and the Department of Health as to who should be making the calls. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health, quoted in your report, tells all while trying to say nothing: “Government policy in this area is being closely examined and consideration given to the future way of working, in relation to this process”. There’s a catechism of cliché for you. The well-trained bureaucrat will always prefer closely examining and considering a future way of working to present action.

You also report that, in the tech capital of Europe, the passenger locator form will be put on an electronic basis “by August 10th”.

Who is responsible for this nonsense? One assumes that, as ever, it is a systems failure and not the responsibility of Peter, Paul or Mary. – Yours, etc,

PAT O’BRIEN,

Rathmines,

Dublin 6 .