Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Darren O’Rourke TD, this evening gave a cautious welcome to indications that international passengers will be subject to increased testing requirements in advance of arrival here.
However, Teachta O’Rourke has said testing alone will not suffice and called on the Government to ensure the new measures form part of a comprehensive effort to reduce international travel and the associated Covid risk to an absolute minimum in the weeks ahead.
Speaking tonight, the Meath East TD said:
“I welcome indications from Government Buildings tonight that they are finally to introduce extra measures for international arrivals.
“This is extremely late, but nevertheless welcome.
“Sinn Féin have argued for months that a robust testing regime was essential at our ports and airports.
“It’s ironic that the government are now moving on this, at the height of the crisis, when the ECDC specifically says this type of testing regime is best introduced when cases numbers and community transition are low.
“Our ports and airports have been a weak point in our defence against Covid-19 to date. The need to address this weakness has never been greater.
“The proposed testing regime is welcome, but on its own it will be too little too late. It must form part of a comprehensive plan.
“In the first instance, the Government must ensure international arrivals are restricted to an absolute minimum until the crisis here stabilises, and our health service is no longer at risk of being overwhelmed.
“Strong advice against all but absolutely essential travel into the state needs to be issued. This should be clearly defined.
“The proposed requirement of a negative pre-departure test is welcome, but testing here on day five post-arrival should also now be made mandatory. The current voluntary regime is not enough.
“We cannot afford to import more cases of Covid-19, especially the more infectious new strains that have been identified in Britain and South Africa.
“Proper follow up checks on the Passenger Locator Form also need to be radically improved to ensure arrivals are actually abiding by the restricted movement/self-isolation requirements.
“This should include fines for those who flout the rules. The Government should actively consider the possibility of introducing a mandatory quarantine regime.
“Again, as at all times during this pandemic, these measures will only work effectively when done in tandem with the north. I am concerned nothing to this effect has been mentioned this evening.
“It’s vital we maximise all-Ireland co-operation and align our response to combat this third, very severe wave across our island. It is essential that we act decisively in the days and weeks ahead.”