Sinn Féin TD for Wexford Johnny Mythen has called on the government to ensure enough steps are taken to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission through Irish ports and airports.
Teachta Mythen voiced concerns about ongoing ambiguity and confusion over whether people travelling into the country are being appropriately assessed to ensure they have and are continuing to comply with public health guidance.
“We remain at a crucial point in the urgent fight to halt the spread of Covid-19 and it is essential that people continue to stay at home and refrain from all but essential travel. Despite this, it is not clear if public health guidance is being properly extended to people travelling through ports and airports.
“It is vital that ports remain open as they are an essential gateway for bringing food and other supplies into the country. However, they cannot be misused by tourists making non-essential journeys, or other visitors not following public health guidance.
“A number of my constituents have reached out to me expressing concern about the ongoing lack of clear guidelines around ports. They are concerned that this could see people further transmit the virus in the community and undermine other efforts to halt the pandemic.
“I wrote to the Transport Minister Shane Ross last week, asking him to outline what provisions are in place. He informed me that screening of visitors is not in place and that while visitors are asked to restrict their movements for 14 days, did not detail how this is tracked or facilitated.
“This weekend is a bank holiday weekend, a time when tourists’ use of ports tends to increase.
“The government needs to urgently clarify what measures, if any, are being taken to question people arriving via ports if they are here for essential business or for tourism, whether they have been displaying Covid-19 symptoms, whether they have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case of the virus, as well as to take a record of their details in case contract tracing is necessary later.
“The government also needs to outline whether there are facilities at ports for people to self-isolate where required.
“Countries including New Zealand and Australia have successfully adopted policies of requiring new arrivals at ports to self-isolate.
“Testing and tracing is essential if we are to break the cycle of transmission. We cannot allow a lack of oversight at ports to run the risk of prolonging this pandemic by proving to be a loophole in the public health strategy.”