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DAA says coronavirus testing in Irish airports would be 'challenging'

According to the DAA, travel to the 15 Green list countries represented only 9% of their traffic in 2019.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

DUBLIN AIRPORT AUTHORITY (DAA) has said that testing for Covid-19 at Irish airports would be “challenging”.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 Response, head of strategy for the DAA Miriam Ryan said that there would be multiple issues with testing passengers on arrival.

“It presents challenges when it comes to space for holding passengers and where you keep them while they are being tested, and the availability of reagents when it comes to testing and the availability of suitability-qualified staff to undertake that testing,” said Ryan.

In the opening statement to the Committee, DAA Chief Financial Officer Ray Gray said that there would be merits to having passengers be tested before they fly into Ireland if they are coming from a non-Green list country.

“They can show to the airline that they have been tested and a certificate to say they have been tested, and can show it to the border management unit in airports and ports,” said Ryan.

According to the DAA, travel to the 15 Green list countries represented only 9% of their traffic in 2019.

The DAA is also working alongside the government to improve the passenger locator forms, which are currently in place.

“We are working closely with government to build a more robust process for tracking inbound visitors using passenger locator forms with the intention of having a call centre in place in August,” said Gray.

Financial impacts

According to the DAA, it has faced losses of €1 million per day since the crisis began, with total losses of over €100 million so far.

“Both airport authorities have had to take very, very difficult decisions,” said Gray, 

At the beginning of 2020, the DAA had 3,500 employees, with two-thirds of those employees currently being supported by the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Other measures have been brought in, with reduced working hours and voluntary redundancies being made available, according to Gray. 

It is quite clear that we are going to have a very significant reduction in our activities, a very significant reduction in our revenues and a very significant reduction in the number of employees we will need for a very different form of aviation for unfortunately what will be quite some time to come.

Gray also mentioned the declining number of passengers who are coming through Dublin Airport, with the airport experiencing a significant drop from it’s usual July figures of between 110,000 and 120,000 passengers per day.

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According to Gray, there are now up to around 15,000 passengers per day, a reduction of 85%.

The number of passengers going through the airport has seen an upswing, however, with a gradual increase in late June and across July.

Before this, there were around 600/700 passengers per day, with between 50 and 60 flights.

“A lot of those would be cargo or virtually empty flights. Most of these are almost ghost aircraft,” said Gray.

The DAA will be able to withstand the huge drops in revenue this year, with Gray explaining that they have cash reserves to counteract the impact.

“We have the ability to withstand the drop in passenger numbers, devastating as it will be,” said Gray.

We have the capacity to survive pretty much anything that is thrown at us this year. That does not mean we have been insulated from very tough situations and we are looking at our cash situation daily in order to protect it. But we will survive this crisis throughout this year.

Shannon Group, which operates Shannon Aiport, is also facing severe impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mary Considine, CEO of the Shannon Group, has said that the airport has been “devastated” by the pandemic. 

“Like airports all over the world, Shannon witnessed an almost total collapse in airport traffic, connectivity and revenues. All market indications are that we’re looking at a very slow recovery,” said Considine.

- With reporting from Press Association

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