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Government won't provide free PCR tests to people heading off on international holidays, says junior Minister

Minister for State Ossian Smyth says that holidaymakers will need to reach out to private testing companies.

Non-essential international travel will resume from 19 July
Non-essential international travel will resume from 19 July
Image: Leah Farrell

FREE TESTING WILL not be provided by the state for those who are seeking to travel abroad under new travel rules, says Minister of State Ossian Smyth.

The return to non-essential international travel is slated for 19 July and was announced by the Taoiseach last night. All countries within the EU have also been removed from Ireland’s mandatory hotel quarantine system.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Saturday With Katie Hannon, Smyth said that under the EU’s Digital Green Cert programme, people will need either proof of vaccination, proof of recovery from Covid-19 or a negative test to fly abroad within the EU.

However, the state will not be providing these services to holidaymakers for free. Instead, people will need to use private PCR testing companies.

“To be clear the state is not going to test you for free before you go away on a holiday,” said Smyth, the Minister of State for eGovernment and Public Procurement.

“It is an addition to the cost of travel, and particularly in the era of low flight costs.”

Smyth said that due to many states, including Ireland, providing Covid-19 vaccination for free, that would be the cheaper option rather than individual tests.

When questioned if the state would subsidise the cost of private testing, Smyth said that there were no plans for subsidies at the minute.

Unvaccinated children between 7 and 18 who are traveling abroad will require two PCR tests: one before they leave the country and one before they return.

Sinn Féin’s Darren O’Rourke said that there were implications for the cost of travel for families, with the cost of PCR tests at around €150 each.

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“There are real implications there in terms of the cost of travel for a family. It’s 150 euros a head per PCR test, that has real implications in terms of a family holiday.”

O’Rourke said that there were “very, very different cost implications” between PCR testing and antigen testing.

Smyth said that the government should consider using antigen testing for children who are traveling with vaccinated parents and that he would engage with Transport Minister Eamon Ryan on the topic.

Smyth also said that the vaccination programme has continued to work well, with over 300,000 doses of vaccine administered last week.

“That just puts us in a stronger and more confident position every week that goes on,” said Smyth, saying that in seven weeks time when international travel reopens Ireland will be in a good position.

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