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€50 Covid tests at airports and 'traffic light' system for US travel at Christmas is proposed

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Passengers at the airport

Passengers at the airport

Passengers at the airport

Covid tests costing a max of €50 for air passengers and the creation of a "traffic light" system for Christmas travel from non-EU nations, such as the US, are being proposed by TDs and senators.

Oireachtas Transport Committee members are working on a report after hearings with representatives from airlines and airports on the devastation the pandemic has caused the industry.

Their report is due to be published next week but an early draft is understood to contain proposals on test costs and overseas passengers aimed at helping the industry recover.

Covid-19 tests on offer from two private firms at Dublin Airport cost from €99 to €199 depending on factors such as the swiftness of the result.

Testing is a requirement for travel under the EU's traffic light system as a way of reducing or eliminating quarantine periods from red or orange-listed countries.

Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley has proposed the committee report includes a recommendation of a subsidy to cut the price of airport tests to €50 at most.

A different draft recommendation calls for a "traffic light system" for fliers from non-EU countries, such as the US and Canada, to help Irish people who are considering travelling home for Christmas.

Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer has proposed an Airport Charges Rebate Scheme be extended beyond March 2021 to as late as September to help the sector.

Risk

Committee sources stressed the drafting of the report was at an early stage and could change before its publication next week.

It comes as European guidelines for travel have said those travelling home from abroad for Christmas should not automatically be considered as high-risk for spreading infection.

Instead, these passengers should be treated in the same way as members of the local population who have not had any direct contact to a person infected with Covid-19.

The surprise advice was published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control - from which the Government looks for guidance - and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which helps regulate air travel.

Fear

Here, however, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has urged people not to travel home to Ireland for Christmas from abroad for fear they could bring the virus with them.

But the European experts have differed and have said incoming travellers are likely to contribute "little to the on-going spread of the virus".

"Travellers should not be considered as a high-risk population, nor treated as contacts of Covid cases, unless they have been in known contact with a confirmed positive case," said the new guidelines for Covid testing and quarantine of air passengers .

"Travellers should be treated in the same way as local residents and be subject to the same regulations or recommendations as the local population.

Based on the latest scientific evidence and information, the document's conclusions reflect the prevalence of the new coronavirus among travellers being estimated to be lower than is the case for the general population.

In addition, the measures already in place in aviation help to minimise the possibility of transmission during the air travel process, it said.


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