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US military troops travelling into Shannon Airport breached Covid-19 regulations

The US crew stayed in a Limerick hotel overnight, leaving to buy food at one point, before flying on to the US the following day.

Image: Shutterstock/shutterupeire

US MILITARY TROOPS travelling into Shannon Airport on a recent flight breached Covid-19 regulations due to an “error on the US side,” according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

The flight, which included five crew and 48 US military personnel, landed at Shannon from Bahrain on 25 January.

At the time all passengers were required to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test on arrival in Ireland, and complete a passenger locator form.

The US crew stayed in a Limerick hotel overnight, leaving to buy food at one point, before flying on to the US the following day.

Coveney, answering a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan, said passengers on the flight did not present evidence of negative PCR tests nor complete passenger location forms.

Once informed of this breach of regulations by the gardaí, the issue was raised with the US authorities, both through the US Embassy in Dublin and through the Irish Embassy in Washington.

“The US authorities have undertaken a review of the circumstances which led to this breach. They have also confirmed that the passengers concerned were operating in a ‘clean bubble’, were tested repeatedly during the period they were deployed in the location where the flight originated and, following instructions by An Garda Síochána, self isolated in a hotel in Limerick overnight, only leaving once to purchase food, while masked, before returning to Shannon airport the following day to travel onward to their destination,” Coveney confirmed.

“Nonetheless, any non-compliance is a serious matter and I made this clear in a discussion with the Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Dublin on 4 February,” he said.

Our Ambassador in Washington has also made this clear in his contacts with senior officials in Washington, said the minister.

Coveney said Irish authorities have emphasised to the US authorities that all landings must fully abide by the conditions put in place by the Irish authorities, including public health conditions.

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“The US authorities have assured me that this is understood and will not happen again,” said Coveney.

He added:

It is clear that the requirements of the Statutory Instrument, which came into effect on 9 January, were inadequately communicated by the relevant US authorities across the entire US Government system.

“My Department and our Embassy in Washington have received apologies, both orally and in writing, from the relevant US authorities, including the US military authorities.

“The US side has recommitted to full compliance in respect of future landings,” he said.

Shannonwatch, a group of campaigners against the use of Shannon Airport by the US military, has said they are unhappy with the news that crew did not adhere to Irish health regulations, stating that there is a “significant” risk of the spread of the virus from travelling US military that use the airport without following the rules.

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