03/10/2020

Department of Health says fortnight travel restriction is an advisory and not mandatory

Passengers arriving from abroad into Ireland are not being monitored to ensure compliance with advice to restrict movement for 14 days, the Department of Health has said.
The State introduced new electronic passenger locator forms for air and sea passengers in mid-August and set up a new call centre to contact passengers.
However, the department confirmed yesterday the 14-day travel restriction has the status of an advisory and is not mandatory. This means follow-up calls to passengers cannot be used to monitor if people are actually at the location they stated on their forms
During the month of September, 186,769 Covid-19 passenger locator forms were submitted, of which 121,230 were completed online.
Passengers were required to provide contact details as well as the address where they are staying for the following 14 days.
A total of 34,439 contacts were made by phone in this period, to about 20 per cent of all incoming passengers.
However, in response to a query, the department said the engagement with passengers was not conducted for the purpose of monitoring or enforcement of restricted movement.
It said the phone calls were made to verify that the address details on the form remain current.
The department said the main purpose of the form was to target public health messages to arriving passengers through SMS and email. The form may also be used for the purpose of contact tracing if there is a suspected case on an airplane or ferry.
It said that more than 262,000 public health messages were sent by text in September.
Social Democrats co-leader Róisin Shortall said the authorities seemed to be seriously underestimating the cases associated with travel.
She said there was one example this week where more than 30 cases of the virus originated with just one couple travelling.
With high numbers continuing to arrive into Ireland from non-green list countries, there would appear to be a good probability that they are bringing imported cases of the virus into the country which then spread throughout the community.
The news that the Department of Health is not interested in monitoring passengers adherence to public health guidelines or enforcing restricted movements, as well as the fact that there are no testing requirements, is quite shocking.
Without any idea of where people are going during the initial 14-day period, there is no way to trace the spread of cases related to foreign travel, she said.