Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Darren O’Rourke TD has echoed the Oireachtas Transport Committee’s call for an immediate pilot study of serial antigen testing for air passengers on London to Dublin routes.
The Meath East TD said now, when only essential travel is advised, is an ideal time for the study and highlighted the fact that the serial antigen testing would provide an additional layer of protection on top of the mandatory pre-departure PCR in place at this time.
He says the study would provide an opportunity to establish and pilot processes that might facilitate a safe return to international travel when public health advice allows.
Teachta O’Rourke said;
“This week the Oireachtas Transport Committee heard from the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Mark Ferguson, on the potential role serial antigen testing could play in the safe re-opening of international travel.
“Prof. Ferguson was Chair of the Covid-19 Rapid Testing Group which reported to Government last month.
“He advised the Oireachtas Committee that serial antigen testing could match or improve on a single pre-departure PCR test and could potentially provide for a relaxation of quarantine, including mandatory hotel quarantine, requirements.
“This is a very significant development, potentially, and should be investigated fully.
“I support the call by the Oireachtas Committee on Transport for the establishment of a pilot study on London to Dublin routes.
“Now, when only essential travel advised, is an opportune time. Current requirements on these routes are for a pre-departure PCR test, quarantine at home, and optional post-arrival PCR test.
“The introduction of a serial antigen programme, covering pre-departure and daily for up to 10 days post-arrival, would provide an additional level of protection on what’s there now.
“In that sense, it is a risk-free trial. Importantly, it would allow the Government and health officials time to prepare and assess systems and technologies in advance of any possible relaxation of Covid restrictions.
“As far back as last October, when HIQA first reported on antigen testing, I called on Minister Eamon Ryan to examine the role it could play in the aviation sector. We’re still waiting.
“Despite repeated calls since the outset of the pandemic, the Government have been far too slow to put proper plans and safety measures in place for international travel.
“They were too slow on Passenger Locators Forms, too slow on testing and too slow on mandatory hotel quarantine.
“We can expect a relaxation of necessary Covid restrictions including mandatory hotel quarantine in the future, when public health advice allows, but we will surely need robust systems in place in the medium and perhaps long-terms to provide assurance for travellers and protection for everyone else.
“Antigen testing could be central in this.
“Government have repeatedly failed to prepare. They should learn from the mistakes of the past. A pilot study should be commenced immediately.”