Growing confusion over system for monitoring incoming visitors

Although everyone entering Ireland must fill a passenger locator form, fewer checks are now being made despite the arrival of many more people into the country.
Growing confusion over system for monitoring incoming visitors
A passenger wearing a mask as he leaves Dublin Airport and passes a sign reminding visitors they must fill out a passenger locator form. Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

There is growing confusion about the Government’s system for monitoring people who come into the country via ports and airports.

Despite growing calls for tighter controls to avert a Covid-19 outbreak being imported into the country, the current system has been relaxed.

Although everyone entering Ireland must fill a passenger locator form, fewer checks are now being made despite the arrival of many more people into the country.

Between July 1 and 13, for example, 52,753 passengers flew into Dublin Airport. 

Of these only 3,532 were called to verify the information they gave on arrival.

Up to the end of June, when the system of checks was directly operated by the Department of Justice, 21,000 people had been called.

From July 1, the HSE was due to take over control of the passenger locator system but officials can’t say when they will be in charge.

An electronic database was due to go online containing passenger locator form information to make it easier to check the data. 

However, the Department of Health can’t say when that is coming online.

And despite Tánaiste Leo Varadkar recently coming out in favour of testing at airports, the department can’t say if it is even considering testing.

Added to that, while people assumed tourists coming here had to self-isolate on arrival, it now turns out they don’t.

Both the Department of Justice and the Department of Health say tourists have to “restrict their movements”.

Cork South-West TD Holly Cairns, of the Social Democrats, said: “The system for tracing the location of tourists arriving into this country is not working. 

"In many cases, travellers are not answering their phones when attempts are made to verify their locations.

“Restaurant and tourist businesses owners have been catapulted into being the primary vetting agencies for their customers who may be coming from abroad.

It is imperative that the Taoiseach acts immediately to put in place measures for incoming travellers to Ireland that ensure the safety of people in Ireland from Covid-19.

Ms Cairns added: “At a time when our businesses are trying to open up, repair the damage of the last four months, and rebuild a functioning economy, the risks that the Taoiseach continues to place on Ireland by not challenging inward travel are not acceptable.”

Independent Cork South-West TD Michael Collins said: “This is a recipe for disaster."

Mayor of Kerry Patrick Connor-Scarteen, of Fine Gael, said: “There needs to be more clarity. There needs to be a proper system in place”

Fianna Fáil councillor Niall Kelleher, his predecessor as mayor, said: “Ireland needs to adopt the New Zealand approach and not only test people but quarantine them on arrival."

The Department of the Taoiseach, Department of Health, and HSE were asked about the current passenger locator form scheme and the existing passenger-monitoring system.

Both the Department of the Taoiseach, which is leading cross-Government work on this, and the HSE declined to comment.

Asked if the existing system was going to be changed, the Department of Health said that “policy in this area is being reviewed with a view to strengthening measures and arrangements in place”.

Asked when the HSE is taking over, it said: “Further information on this handover will be available in due course.”

It said information about the electronic database — when will it start working, who will have access to it — “will be available in due course”.

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