It will become mandatory to wear a mask on public transport in Ireland from Monday, the Government has said, while concerns grow over the efficacy of Ireland’s air travel restrictions in the face of a spike in travel-related Covid-19 infections.
Regulations were signed into effect last night mandating the use of masks for all public transport journeys to give effect to the new directive aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus as society continues to open up.
Those who undertake journeys now without a facial covering risk fines of up to €2,500 and/or six months in prison. Children under 13 are exempt from those penalties, while exceptions are to be made for people with special needs and those with trouble breathing among others.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged that concerns abound regarding the rise in travel-related incidences of the virus, with 15 of the 23 cases notified by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Thursday relating to travel.
Mr Martin said that the Government’s approach to date had been “very cautious” in relation to travel, and said that it would continue to be so ahead of the launch of the ‘green list’ of approved countries for travel from July 20.
Ireland ostensibly has travel restrictions in place, in that citizens remain advised against any non-essential journeys outside the country, while incoming travellers must fill out a locator form upon arrival indicating an address where they will spend 14 days in self-isolation. However, it is unclear to what extent those practices have been enforced.
The Department of Justice said the Border Management Unit at Dublin Airport is currently “making calls to a cohort of passengers from every flight”.
Travel from both the US and the UK, two of the largest Covid-19 hotspots, is continuing unimpeded, albeit with a fraction of the regular passenger movement. Meanwhile, with the UK yesterday opening itself up to restriction-free travel from 58 countries, the issue of people travelling from Northern Ireland to make use of Dublin Airport has led to calls for an all-island travel policy from certain quarters, with Mr Martin acknowledging that such an approach would be the ideal scenario.
Mr Martin said Ireland, in preparation for the next deadline of July 20, would be putting in place “an additional number of measures at airports and ports designed to protect people as best we can”.
He said the Government would be “working more proactively in terms of tracking people who come into the country”.
Flights to and from the US, the country with the largest number of cases on the planet, have continued to expand, with American Airlines yesterday resuming its passenger service between Dublin and Fort Worth, Texas, a state experiencing a marked increase in infections.
DAA, the agency with responsibility for Cork, Dublin, and Shannon airports, confirmed there are “no specific restrictions in relation to US passengers” other than the mandatory locator forms.
Five airlines, including Aer Lingus, are currently flying between Dublin and the US at a rate of roughly 15 flights per week. It is understood a significant amount of cargo has been transported on those flights.
“Dublin and Cork airports are fully following all public health guidelines re Covid-19,” said a spokesperson, adding that the locator forms must be handed in at passport control to immigration officials, a process in which the airports themselves play no part.
At present Dublin Airport has in the region of 200 flights landing and taking off daily, about a quarter of its normal load, with about 10,350 passengers each day. Cork Airport is facilitating 10 flights daily.
In the absence of temperature checks at airports and ports, DAA cited the recent advice of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control that “thermal screening has many limitations and little evidence of effectiveness” in detecting the virus.
Meanwhile, the Irish Hospital Consultants Associations said hospital waiting lists could be “missing thousands of people” who delayed medical assessment during the pandemic.
There were over 300,000 fewer outpatient appointments in March, April, and May compared with the same period in 2019, the IHCA said.
One more person with Covid-19 has died in Ireland, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
It brings to 1,744 the total number of Covid-19-related deaths here.
There were 25 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 25,589.