Dublin Airport Authority representatives have told an Oireachtas Transport Committee that pre-departure Covid-19 testing is the way forward.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will be publishing a map if the EU on a weekly basis. The map is part of the EU’s traffic light plan, whereby countries will be shown as either red, amber or green depending on the level of Covid-19 risk in each area. Ireland has already agreed to implement the traffic light plan here.
The system will facilitate international travel within the EU. It will also allow people to return home to Ireland for Christmas. The current situation in Ireland is that a person coming from a red zone will have to quarantine for 14 days following arrival in the country. The government is planning to waive the 14 day quarantine period if the new arrival gets a negative result from a Covi-19 test conducted 5 days after arrival.
From November 8th those arriving from amber zones can have the 14-day quarantine period waived if they have had a negative Covid-19 test result up to 3 days before arrival.
The DAA pointed out, however, that pre-departure testing would be much more efficient. The DAA statement said that two-thirds of European countries already offer rapid Covid-19 testing at airports. The DAA further said that it had already spent months planning the implementation of testing at its airports in the belief that the government would be implementing a testing system that was harmonised with regimes across Europe. The Authority said that it had already secured suppliers and allocated space at its airports for testing to commence.
However, the DAA said that testing at airports required a planning exemption; the same planning exemption that has been given to other Covid testing sites. The government has, so far, failed to provide the DAA with the required planning exemption. In order to be part of the reciprocal pre-departure arrangements, Ireland must have rapid testing in place at its airports.
The DAA further stated that the Covid tests used here, which are expensive and have a long turnaround time will not work as part of this system.
“To truly get people moving again – and the economy firing, we will need to look at
alternative options such as LAMP and Antigen testing. HIQA recently published a report
which advised NPHET to consider implementing reliable rapid antigen tests to enhance
COVID-19 prevention and controls.”
The suggested LAMP test is a swab test of throat and nose but provides near instant results without having to go to a lab. The National Virus Reference Laboratory is currently studying LAMP testing to see whether it could be used as part of Ireland’s testing regime. The current PCR tests which require lab analysis will not facilitate the opening up of Ireland to international travel.
If we see rapid pre-departure testing implemented soon in Irish airports, harmonised with similar testing regimes in all EU countries, friends and family will be easily able to return home for Christmas.