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'Covid testing at airports delayed as DAA waits for approval'


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Red tape is holding up tests

Red tape is holding up tests

Colin Keegan

Red tape is holding up tests

The introduction of Covid-19 testing for airline passengers is being held up while the DAA awaits planning approval for test centres in Dublin and Cork.

The semi-State agency, which runs the airports, is expected to raise the issue today at the Oireachtas Transport Committee.

"Unfortunately, thus far, the State has not provided DAA with the planning exemption required and, in that context, we cannot at this point offer on-site testing at our airports," officials are to say.

It comes as the committee was yesterday warned by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) that many parts of the industry won't survive unless testing for air passengers is introduced.

Paul Brandon, the head of corporate affairs for the IAA, said testing would play a key role in taking the industry "off life support".

In its statement for today's meeting the DAA says it has spent months working on potential pre-departure testing at its airports in the belief there would be a harmonised system across Europe and "our Government would unequivocally support a pre-departure approach".

"Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the emerging picture," it said.

"We believe an outbound testing facility is required to support reciprocal arrangements in other countries and to facilitate reinstating Ireland's connectivity and therefore its economy."

The committee is also to hear from airport officials in Rome where testing of passengers is taking place.

Senior executive Ivan Bassato is to outline how a testing centre has been set up in the arrivals hall of Fiumicino Airport as well as a drive-through facility at its long-stay car-park.

Devastated

Mr Brandon of the IAA last night told the committee the pandemic has "devastated" the aviation industry in Europe and that air traffic levels in Ireland are at those last seen in the late 1980s.

Prior to the pandemic Ireland's aviation sector was the "envy of the world", he said adding that this emphasises its importance to the economy and "what we stand to lose at this time".

In the absence of a vaccine there needs to be an "effective and harmonised" system of travel across Europe and that pre-departure testing should be implemented as soon as possible, Mr Brandon said.

EU agencies are working on developing a testing protocol for aviation, European Commission official Filip Cornelis last night said.

It could be used alongside the new 'traffic light' system to provide stability and clarity for passengers, he said.


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