US troops 'directed' to stay on flights during Shannon stopover due to Covid-19

US troops 'directed' to stay on flights during Shannon stopover due to Covid-19
An Omni Air International flight taking off from Shannon Airport today. Pic: Pat Flynn

US military personnel passing through Shannon Airport on their way to and from the US, Middle East and Europe have been instructed not to get off their aircraft after landing at the airport.

Concerns have been expressed in recent weeks that US troops continue to be allowed transit Shannon despite President Donald Trump imposing a travel ban on passengers flying to the US amid Covid-19 fears.

In recent weeks and days, one civilian airline carrying US military personnel has made almost daily stops at Shannon travelling to and from the US, the Middle East and European countries including Bulgaria, Poland and The Netherlands.

Kuwait, a staging ground for troops based in the region, has almost 200 confirmed cases but no deaths while in Bulgaria, there have been three fatalities and 220 confirmed cases of the virus. In Poland nearly 1,000 infections have been confirmed while 13 people have died.

Today, an Omni Air International flight from Eindhoven, the Netherlands, made a refuelling stop in Shannon on its to El Paso in the US state of Texas. There have already been almost 356 Covid-19 related deaths in the Netherlands while over 6,412 people are confirmed to have the virus.

ShannonWatch spokesman Edward Horgan said: “This is outrageous. Ireland is justifiably almost in lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus yet hundreds of US soldiers travelling from affected areas in the Middle East, Europe and the USA are landing at Shannon airport.

The US Embassy says that troops have been 'directed' not to get off planes at Shannon but they had been entering the airport terminal building and mingling with airport passengers and airport workers.

"US President Trump has banned all flights from Europe including Ireland, but not flights taking US soldiers through Shannon airport,” Mr Horgan said.

Mr Horgan also visited Shannon Garda station requesting that US soldiers be stopped from entering the airport terminal building so as the prevent the spread of coronavirus.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Dublin said: "US troops transiting through Shannon Airport have been directed to remain on board the aircraft. Only in circumstances where a maintenance issue requires troops to exit the aircraft will they be allowed to leave the plane and in these circumstances they will not mingle with others passengers in the terminal."

While several troop carriers still transit Shannon every week, it’s understood there has been a dramatic reduction in US military aircraft traffic using Shannon in the wake of the worldwide Covid-19 outbreak.

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