News & Media

Stop US flights until mandatory Covid testing in place

13 July 2020

Statement by Duncan Smith TD
Party Whip and Spokesperson on Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport.

Labour Transport spokesperson Duncan Smith has called on the Government to suspend flights from the United States and other Covid-19 hotspots until there is mandatory Covid-19 testing in place at our airports for visitors from those locations, adding that the advice of public health officials and international best practise should be followed, with strong enforcement of the mandatory quarantine period.

Deputy Smith said:

“There is huge public concern at the arrival into Ireland of visitors from the United States, and the total lack of enforcement of the 14 day mandatory quarantine period. The current rules are unworkable and unenforceable, and the public are rightly upset about this. We are the only EU country allowing visitors from the US at the moment. The only requirement for visitors is to fill in a passenger locator form which simply isn’t enough.

“The line from the Government that they will tighten the rules is not sustainable when our current measures are unenforceable and the risk is already here. We have yet to see what countries will be on a ‘green list’ but in the meantime we are opening our country to unnecessary risk.

“For months Irish people have made the hard sacrifices needed to get Covid-19 under control on our island. We can’t now have a situation where visitors from abroad are visiting Ireland but not following the rules. The pandemic is out of control in large parts of the United States, and all our hard work to protect our most vulnerable is now for nothing if visitors from there to Ireland don’t follow the recommended 14 day quarantine.

“If the Government isn’t able to put in place a strict quarantine system, then we must introduce mandatory Covid-19 testing at our airports, with a commitment to a three day turnaround. Visitors would remain in an enforced mandatory quarantine until they get their results. The Government should also look at using temperature testing, and strong enforcement of the 14 mandatory quarantine period for untested visitors which would help to control any future outbreaks. If a person is found to be clear of the virus they can then go about their business. While a ‘green list’ system is being developed, we should also look to see what best practice elsewhere is.

“The Government is advising that people should only travel for essential business, but we know from weekend reports that tourists are visiting Ireland from the US and elsewhere. Even if it is just a few hundred people a week it is better to be safe and test where we can, to provide some certainty.  

“Public concern has focused on US flights over the weekend, but there are more now due in the coming days. For example there are five flights due into Dublin airport on Tuesday morning from the United States – from New York, Boston, Chicago, Newark and Dallas. A further four US flights will arrive on Wednesday.

“Our public health officials are rightly worried at the risk from travel into Ireland, and it is clear we need more effective control measures at our airports and ports. The government needs to get its act together quickly otherwise the public will want to know what all the sacrifices they made were for.

“Huge support has been provided to airlines through the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme but despite the failure of large companies like IAG to engage proactively with the State on retaining jobs, the worst situation for those in the international travel business is a second wave caused by the resumption of discretionary travel too soon. It is in the interests of all aviation stakeholders that travel is safe, and as risk free as possible.”