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EU traffic light system for international travel to commence in November

Cabinet agreed to align Ireland with the EU traffic light system.

The EU “traffic light” system for providing Covid-19 testing at airports will come into force in Ireland on Sunday, 8 November, Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton has said.
The EU “traffic light” system for providing Covid-19 testing at airports will come into force in Ireland on Sunday, 8 November, Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton has said.
Image: Shutterstock/Peter Krocka

THE NEW EUROPEAN ‘traffic light’ system to co-ordinate international Covid-19 travel restrictions across the continent will come into force in Ireland on Sunday, 8 November.

This week, Cabinet agreed to align Ireland with the EU traffic light system.

Under the plan, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will publish a weekly map of the EU using a three-stage colour system to indicate the level of risk in each area.

Levels will be determined by a variety of epidemiological factors including the 14-day incidence per 100,000 population and the level of positive tests.

A fourth colour, grey, will be allocated to areas with not enough data.

Travellers coming from a red, orange or grey zones could be required to quarantine or take a test for Covid-19 when arriving into a country, while those coming from a green zone would not face any measures.

Junior Minister for Transport Transport Hildegarde Naughton has said a high level technical group within Departments will be monitoring it on a two-weekly basis.

Many countries across Europe, including Ireland, are on a red list as of now, she explained.

“For orange and red list countries, we are asking people to restrict their movements for 14 days, as is currently the case for all travellers. For orange list countries, there will be an exemption from restricting movements if the person carries out a validated pre-departure test.

“The requirement for red list countries remains as it is at the moment and people will have to restrict their movements,” she said.

The high level technical group will be looking at and assessing the types of testing Ireland will carry out. 

While she said the PCR test is the “gold standard”, work is ongoing on other potential types of testing that could become available or be validated in the future.

“We want to leave that open in order that we could potentially use that for pre-departure tests,” she said.

On the timeline, the minister said the amber list country requirement will become effective at midnight on Sunday 8 November, with a pre-departure test for people travelling from amber list counties.

“The red list countries, like Ireland, will be as is for the moment where people will have to restrict their movements for 14 days. The high level technical group will be looking at testing regimes for red list countries and how it would work,” she added.

She said the government’s decision around testing will help open up connectivity in a safe way while adhering to all the health protocols and will help the likes of Shannon Airport.

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“We have to be cognisant that most of Europe is now red zone countries. Now is a good time, however, to start planning and preparing for that pre-flight testing regime,” she said.

Last week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar acknowledged that the PCR swab being currently used costs nearly €150-€200 per test while rapid testing was much cheaper. Such tests are used in Germany and other airports in Europe.

Varadkar said Nphet and the Government’s advisory committee is considering the issue. “I will, however, encourage them to make that decision as quickly as possible. Decisions were made slowly on face coverings. They should not be made slowly on this.”

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