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christmas travel

Passengers from ‘red’ regions will be allowed to move freely once they pass a Covid-19 test five days after arrival

The rule change will give hope to many wishing to return home this Christmas.

LAST UPDATE | 10 Nov 2020

FROM MIDNIGHT 29 November, travellers arriving into Ireland from so-called ‘red’ regions in the EU will be allowed to move freely once they pass a PCR Covid-19 test five days following their arrival.

This provision will also be available to arrivals from orange regions who may not have availed of a pre-departure test. 

In a move that will have major implications for Christmas aviation travel, grey areas on EU traffic light map for international travel – such as the United States – are classed as red regions.

Currently, a person is advised to restrict their movements for 14 days following arrival from a ‘red’ region.

Cabinet agreed the change to the rules today which will also impact passengers arriving from orange regions.

As of last Sunday night, travellers arriving from orange regions do not have to restrict their movements if they carry a negative Covid-19 test taken at least three days previous.

However, from 29 November, those who do not have a negative test upon arrival in Ireland, can have a test taken five days later.

Passengers will be asked to restrict their movements until they get the test.

Under the new EU traffic light plan, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control 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.

Ireland has agreed to align to the plan which is based on regions rather than countries.

In a statement, Aer Lingus said it welcomed the revisions to the testing regime and said the adoption of the traffic light system “will enable customers to book with confidence in 2021″. 

Planning permission exemption

In addition, Cabinet also agreed that the Dublin Airport Authority will be granted a planning permission exemption to allow it to set up Covid-19 testing on site at the airport.

In terms of a testing regime in Ireland, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has said the government wants to make sure that such a system does not impede on HSE capacity.

He told an Oireachtas committee last week that he is confident such a testing regime could be “done quite quickly”.

He said the government has been engaging with the DAA which has engaged with about 20 providers that can supply Covid-19 tests.

Ryan said he expects the private sector to provide the tests. 

Private testers must notify the HSE of positive Covid-19 tests under the new rules.

The new ECDC map was published on Thursday.

Regions currently listed as orange include Norway, Finland, and areas in Greece. vOnly Greenland is categorised as a green region as of 5 November.

NPHET’s position is that the risks associated with international travel are “very, very high”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, which sets government policy on travel, states that Ireland is implementing the new traffic light approach to travel, which applies to countries in the EU and UK.

If you are considering travelling outside of Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs says it continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas, other than to countries that are part of the EU ‘traffic lights’ approach, where the advice is to exercise a high degree of caution – this includes Great Britain but not Northern Ireland. 

In a government statement this evening, it states that, subject to ongoing review of testing by NPHET and Government, a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR test is the only test result that means the passenger is not expected to follow advice to restrict movements.

Testing technology and delivery options for facilitating international travel will be kept under review, it adds.

Testing provision under Ireland’s framework for international travel will not be provided through the public health system, but rather will be met by the private commercial sector testing supply on a user pays basis.

As the availability of testing cannot be guaranteed intending passengers wishing to avail of a test should seek an early appointment for a test in advance of travel, said the government statement.

It remains a mandatory requirement for arrivals to Ireland (excluding essential workers) to correctly complete a Passenger Locator Form.

Airlines’ reaction

Aer Lingus said in a statement that “these changes represent positive steps towards facilitating increased safe international travel, which is critical to the Irish economy”.

It added: “While noting that the government has initially established a PCR testing solution for post arrival testing, Aer Lingus believes that going forward tests should be based on a rapid and affordable testing solution. 

Aer Lingus believes that a rapid antigen testing regime is the most appropriate standard in this regard. Only a rapid and affordable testing solution will facilitate a meaningful increase in safe international travel.
Aer Lingus believes the adoption of the Traffic Light System will enable customers to book with confidence for travel in 2021.

Ryanair, meanwhile, today criticised the government for its announcement of an airport rebate scheme saying that three months of rebates “don’t go far enough”. 

A spokesperson said: “If our Aviation and Tourism industries are to have any chance of rebounding to pre-Covid levels, then a structural package of incentives is required over three years – not three months – to support this industry on which so many people depend for their livelihoods.”

With reporting from Sean Murray

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