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Optional passenger locator forms branded an 'insult' to families of coronavirus victims


Fine Gael’s Emer Higgins. Photo: Mark Condren

Fine Gael’s Emer Higgins. Photo: Mark Condren

Fine Gael’s Emer Higgins. Photo: Mark Condren

ALLOWING airline passengers the option of filling in a form on where they will self-isolate is an "insult" to the families of those who have died from Covid-19, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Emer Higgins made the remarks in the Dáil after it was revealed that a third of people arriving in Ireland over a six-week period refused to hand over details of where they were staying to allow authorities confirm they were self-isolating.

The government is now examining proposals to make the forms mandatory with follow-up by gardaí to check passengers are self-isolating at their declared accommodation.

Ms Higgins questioned if this goes far enough.

She said progress in halting the spread of the disease is fragile and "there's a very real threat posed at our ports".

Ms Higgins said: "Passengers can waltz through our airports, claim they are travelling to Northern Ireland, and not have to [comply] with any restrictions, regardless of the threat they post to this island."

She said it's less than three months since the first passenger with Covid-19 travelled through Dublin Airport.

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"A small number of passengers like this brought this virus to our shores... We now have over 23,000 confirmed cases and tragically 1,500 deaths. Our way of life has come to a standstill."

She said passenger numbers into Ireland are now at a trickle but change is coming and "numbers will soar again soon" as Ryanair gears up to open nine out of ten of its routes.

"Allowing an optional form govern people's responsibilities to self isolate on arrival into Ireland is an insult," she said.

"It's an insult to everyone who has spent weeks trapped in their home, to our frontline workers who've been risking their health to protect and to help others, to the families of the 1,488 people who have died with coronavirus," she added.

Ms Higgins also asked: "Is making a form obligatory... really enough?"

She questioned if emergency legislation is needed to "force passengers to provide the address they will self-isolate at and system in place to police that".

Earlier, Sinn Féin TD Darren O'Rourke raised the issue with Transport Minister Shane Ross saying the controls and checks involving the passenger locator forms have "proven entirely inadequate".

Mr Ross said he shared Mr O'Rourke's concerns but not his conclusions.

"Obviously what’s happening in the airports and ports is vitally important for keeping the virus out," he added and said that there has been concern and difficulty over the passenger locator forms.

He also said the problem shouldn't be exaggerated.

He said the airports are “virtually closed” and it would be untrue to say hundreds of thousands of people are coming in unnoticed.

Mr Ross said the reasons for locator forms not being filled in are being investigated and suggested that the issue is not just passengers refusing to fill them out.

He said there could be issues involving their distribution as well.

Mr Ross said the possibility of the forms being made mandatory with Garda follow-up is being looked at and proposals are due "very shortly".

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