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Targeted testing is planned for airports to stop imported cases, reveals Ryan

   

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Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has said targeted testing at airports will be used to prevent new cases of Covid-19 being imported into Ireland, adding he does not want to see an "avalanche" of travel in and out of the country.

The Cabinet will meet today as it delays publishing a "green list" of countries - planned to share an 'air bridge' with Ireland - until July 20.

Mr Ryan said that while flights wouldn't be stopped, due to the need for some to travel for "essential" purposes, he didn't want to see an "avalanche" of travel.

As more flights take off, he said updating testing at airports was now a priority for the Cabinet.

"We will look at other measures to try and improve our responsiveness because the virus hasn't gone away. It's actually flaring across the world," he told Newstalk yesterday.

"It's rising in terms of the number of cases a day and we, as an open country, cannot completely isolate ourselves, particularly as we are in a common travel area with the UK.

"What we will have to do is introduce further protocols to try and manage this, including testing in airports and not testing every passenger but targeted [testing].

"It will continue to evolve depending on the status of the threat. It won't be fixed."

The Government would now work toward launching a "certain element of testing", including the electronic recording of passengers' information and following up with texts and phone calls.

Passengers would be tested and contacted to see if they had "continued without symptoms, whether they adhered to regulations in terms of quarantine", said Mr Ryan.

Although this information is currently being compiled, it is only in written form and needs to be upgraded electronically.

"But what we don't want is for that to become an avalanche [in travel], a wholesale exit," Mr Ryan added.

"The real concern is Irish people going abroad. The number of people coming in on holidays is going to be very small, as the world isn't traveling... or isn't thinking of coming here," he said.

"The real concern is Irish people travelling and bringing it [Covid-19] back because the numbers here right now are very low."

The Government will not ban travel but will be "sending a message to the Irish public to play their part, to holiday at home this summer and autumn", he said.

The "green list" will be compiled by assessing countries that have "similar if not better" results regarding suppressing the virus.

The Government had said the list would be unveiled on July 9. However, Mr Ryan said this had been delayed due to a desire to "see the status of the virus" abroad first.

"Sometimes you loosen the reins; sometimes you tighten them," he added.

"We won't be able to keep the virus completely out. There will be flares where it comes in and we have to isolate that."

Contact tracing, testing and "managing" the virus would be the way forward, he added.

Meanwhile Mr Ryan said he was looking forward to a leadership contest against his deputy leader Catherine Martin, someone he said he holds in the "highest regard".

"I make mistakes speaking off the cuff," he said. "She's maybe more patient. Maybe if I'd not rushed into speaking so often, or much, it would be different.

"We each have our own skills and get on very well."

Irish Independent