NPHET policy change on travel testing and quarantine leaves ball in government’s court

Duncan Smith TD
21 January 2021
  • NPHET had been reluctant up until now to endorse strong travel testing and quarantine measures.
  • Over three quarters of the public want action on this.
  • Additional supports needed for workers in the aviation sector.

The support from NPHET for a more robust travel testing regime is a big policy shift said Labour transport spokesperson, Duncan Smith TD as he called on the Government to establish a quarantine regime for persons arriving into the country to assist in driving down the levels of COVID19 and for an extension of supports for workers in the aviation sector.

With strong public support for the measure, and vacant hotels throughout the country, more robust testing of visitors with quarantine measures would be a common sense policy.

Deputy Smith said:

“For months I have called for a stricter testing and quarantine regime for those arriving into Ireland. NPHET’s request now for a more robust travel testing regime including quarantining measures is a big turning point and the Government should listen to the advice. We can’t allow up to 40% of imported cases go undetected.

“Up until now NPHET has been reluctant to endorse strong travel testing measures supporting instead a blanket ‘advice against all non-essential travel’ line throughout the pandemic. Their backing of a stronger testing regime with quarantining should now be endorsed by the Government.

“It was clear during the sittings of the COVID Committee and subsequent Transport Committee meetings that NPHET felt that resources would be better applied to other areas of the pandemic response. Their position now is a big shift

“Since the onset of the virus, the Government has been inept at halting the virus at our airports. Irish people have made hard sacrifices for almost a year, and yet we still have a situation where visitors from abroad are visiting Ireland but not following the rules.

“There needs to be a strategic approach from the Government on this. If we are really serious about lowering levels of Covid-19, then there must be mandatory quarantine for any person arriving into the country. This has to be underpinned by a robust testing regime upon arrival in the airport, supported by follow up testing and tracing. Since August I have sought stronger action on this.

“90% of the public agree according to last weekends’ Ireland Thinks poll, and want to introduce mandatory quarantining to protect our families, our friends, our neighbours, our loved ones. The Government needs to be as serious about public health as the public is.

“Government must also ensure that workers in the aviation sector continue to receive supports for reduced hours and pay due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I urge the Government to reintroduce mortgage and rents breaks and to ensure an extension of the PUP payment and other financial supports to workers in the sector. This is a sector that we have known for many months will be one of the last to return, and the workers in this sector must be supported through prolonged closures.

“Due to the Government’s inaction over many months, we have had a totally substandard approach that relies on private testing. Different strains have managed to arrive in Ireland and spread like wildfire. We lost many months in which a proper quarantining strategy could have been provided for this vital public health measure.

“Having robust PCR and antigen testing alongside mandatory quarantining in place would be a step closer to having control over the virus outbreak in Ireland. The Government should stop wasting time on this and implement it now.”

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