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€50 Covid-tests and ‘traffic light’ for US travel proposed

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Timmy Dooley TD

Timmy Dooley TD

Timmy Dooley TD

Covid-19 tests for air passengers costing no more than €50, and the creation of a traffic light system for Christmas travel from places like the US, are among proposals in a draft report on the aviation industry.

Members of the Oireachtas Transport Committee are working on their report after weeks of hearings with representatives from airlines and airports on the devastation the pandemic has wrought on the sector.

The report is due to be published next week, but an early draft is understood to contain a series of proposals aimed at helping the industry in the months ahead.

The cost of Covid-19 tests on offer by two private companies at Dublin Airport range from €99 to €199, depending on factors like the speed of the result.

Testing is a requirement for travel under the EU’s Traffic Light system as a way of reducing, or eliminating, quarantine periods from red or orange listed countries.

Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley has proposed that the committee’s report includes a recommendation that a subsidy be used to reduce the price of PCR tests so passengers should not have to pay more than €50.

A different draft recommendation calls for the immediate development of a traffic light system for non-EU countries like the US and Canada to provide clarity for Irish people considering travelling home for Christmas.

Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer, meanwhile, has proposed that an airport charges rebate scheme be extended beyond March 2021 to as late as September to help the recovery of the sector.

Committee sources stressed that the drafting of the report is at an early stage and is subject to change prior to its publication, which is planned for next week.

Separately, people travelling home from abroad for Christmas should not automatically be considered as high-risk for spreading infection, new European guidelines for travel have said.

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Instead, these passengers should be treated in the same way as members of the local population, who have not had any direct contact to a person infected with Covid-19.

The surprise advice was published jointly by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) – which the Irish Government looks to for guidance – and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on the request of the European Commission.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) here has asked people not to travel home for Christmas from abroad, because they could bring the virus with them.

But the European experts said incoming travellers are likely to contribute “little to the on-going spread of the virus”.

The new guidelines for Covid-19 Testing and Quarantine of Air Travellers state that: “Travellers should not be considered as a high-risk population, nor treated as contacts of Covid-19 cases, unless they have been in known contact with a confirmed positive case.

“Travellers should be treated in the same way as local residents and be subject to the same regulations or recommendations as applied to the local population.”

Based on the latest scientific evidence, the document’s conclusions reflect the fact that the prevalence of coronavirus among travellers is estimated to be lower than is the case for the general population.

In addition, the measures in place in aviation minimise the possibility of transmission during the air travel process.

“This new document is a true European contribution for the benefits of European citizens,” said Patrick Ky, executive director at EASA.

“Its findings can be important in making many family reunions over Christmas possible...We would encourage national decision-makers to take account of the recommendations given here when making their policies.”


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