Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Covid-19 Tests

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

1. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport his plans for Covid-19 testing facilities at ports and airports; the form of testing that will be used; the cost travellers will face; if it will be in place before Christmas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35955/20]

I wish to again raise the issue of testing and tracing for passengers arriving at ports and airports. Could the Minister please update the House on the type of testing that will be put in place? Will it be polymerase chain reaction, PCR, or another type? What will the cost of testing be? How many tests will each major port and airport be able to carry out daily? What will the timeframe involved? There is some indication that testing will start today at Cork and Shannon airports. When will testing be up and running elsewhere?

The plan for living with Covid-19 and the Government decision of 20 October both affirm that any testing model implemented for international travel should not impinge on HSE testing capacity. In light of this, any testing for international travel will need to draw on resources from the private sector, which are not being accessed by the HSE.

The testing regime envisaged under the Government decision for international travel will be implemented through the private supply of testing availability in Ireland. This will include: testing post arrival, from day five, for passengers from EU orange or red list locations; and testing for departing passengers who need or wish to complete a pre-departure test requirement before travelling to another country.

Subject to the ongoing review of testing by National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, and the Government, a Covid-19 PCR, test is currently the only test that is accepted for the purposes of allowing the advice relating to restricted movement to be waived. Testing technology and delivery options for facilitating international travel will be kept under review, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification, LAMP, and antigen testing.

Shannon and Cork airports have indicated that drive-through testing will be available today for passengers and the public. The Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, has indicated that the provision of testing at Dublin Airport by private providers can be increased within weeks. Testing at Dublin Airport will be undertaken by two providers by means of a drive-through facility and a walk-through facility at the airport. The DAA has advised that the testing offer by the providers will be reasonably priced, within what is generally available on the market. As there can be no certainty that capacity will be available to meet all possible requirements, intending passengers who wish to avail of testing should seek an appointment before travelling.

It is an unfolding situation. Many people are looking towards Christmas and want to know what testing regime will be in place. How does the Government plan to advise people on foreign travel for the Christmas period? Some 1.2 million people travelled through Dublin Airport during the Christmas period last year. That is a significant number. There is a demand for people to come home to Ireland and for people to travel abroad to their home countries for Christmas. What advice can the Minister of State give to people at this stage? How will travel be managed and constrained, if that is what is intended? The current position is that there should be no non-essential travel. The public health advice is quite clear. This is a dynamic situation and it is changing, but we know that NPHET has been quite consistent with the public health advice. I do not see it changing significantly, but I ask how the Government intends to manage the demand that will exist and to balance it with the public health advice.

As Deputy O'Rourke is aware, we are listening to the advice of NPHET at the moment. We are at level 5. We have aligned ourselves with the EU traffic-light approach. People who come to this country from a red-list country will be asked to restrict their movements for 14 days. After five days, they can avail of PCR tests here. Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports and the private sector will be rolling out testing facilities. Travellers coming from orange list countries will be asked to take a test three days in advance of travelling. If they do not do that, they can also avail of the test here within five days, as per red list passengers. Again, it is about people taking personal responsibility when they come here and adhering to the local public health advice.

Regarding some of the expected volumes, the DAA testing plan across Dublin and Cork airports has estimated the volume to be approximately 150 tests per day, ramping up to a total of 300 tests per day towards the end of the year. The DAA has also identified capacity in the private sector testing market of up to 12,000 PCR tests per day.

Coming back to the challenge at Christmas, the testing capacity will not be in place to test everybody who arrives in the country if the testing capacity is 150 per day. At this stage, if someone is planning for Christmas, is the Government maintaining the position that people should seriously consider planning for a different type of Christmas? Is the Government suggesting that people should give serious consideration to whether they need to travel at all if they have an alternative to stay where they are? If very large numbers of people come back to the country, that will have significant public health implications, particularly as the passenger locator form and the testing regime are not entirely adequate.

Deputy O'Rourke raises a very valid point. Whatever we do at national level with the health protocols, there is a level of responsibility on anyone who is planning to travel here for essential work or who is returning home for Christmas to visit family, relatives and friends.

It is in our interests to ensure that we act responsibly, that such persons take a PCR test in advance if they are coming from an orange-listed country and again after five days for people coming from a red-listed country. We need to await the advice. We do not know where we will be with this virus, which is moving in a positive direction. The Deputy can be assured that the high-level governmental group will be watching international travel and will be working with the CMO on the travel advice. For people who are travelling, the DAA has established a webpage with details of airport testing availability. I ask passengers to look at that as well as gov.ie for the advice the Government will be giving.

Anti-Social Behaviour

Duncan Smith

Question:

2. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Transport his plans to protect front-line workers who use public transport from those who are not following public health advice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35651/20]

I seek an update on plans to protect the users of public transport from people who are not adhering to public health advice. I am talking about people who are aggressive and targeting the majority of our citizens who are doing the right thing. Under the level 5 restrictions, only essential workers and schoolgoing children are advised to use public transport. They are the ones we need to protect most to keep everything going. They are the ones who in small but very worrying circumstances are being targeted.

As the House knows, the Covid-19 health emergency has had a profound impact on the public transport sector since March. We all recognise that the continued operation of the public transport sector is important, which is why it has been designated among the essential services that have carried on throughout the crisis.

The Government is committed to ensuring that essential transport services and passengers utilising these services are protected and supported. I assure the Deputy that public health advice has closely guided the introduction of measures across the public transport system to improve journey safety for the passengers, including people travelling to work to provide front-line and other essential services, and for the transport staff who operate the services. I again take the opportunity to thank public transport operators and their staff for their commitment in providing this vital service in these challenging times.

The measures taken to enable the continued operation of services more safely during the pandemic include enhanced cleaning regimes and social distancing measures across the network. Social distancing is currently supported through the reductions in the number of passengers that the buses and trains can carry during the various risk levels under the Government's living with Covid plan.

The safety measures also include the regulations requiring the mandatory wearing of face coverings on public transport, which came into effect on Monday, 13 July, and were recently extended to June 2021. These regulations require passengers, with some exceptions, to wear face coverings while utilising public transport giving additional protection to both passengers and transport staff.

The regulations are implementable by a relevant person who is defined as any officer, employee or agent of a public transport operator or of the National Transport Authority, NTA. A relevant person implementing the regulations can seek the assistance of An Garda Síochána where needed. Where a passenger is not wearing a face covering, a relevant person under the regulations may request the passenger to wear a face covering, refuse the passenger entry to the public transport vehicle or request the passenger to alight from the vehicle. Failure to comply is an offence and there are penalties on summary conviction for non-compliance.

In excess of 95% of passengers are wearing masks. Compliance is very high across all public transport operators. This has worked and is working. We want to ensure it continues to work.

I absolutely agree. Compliance is incredible because the people of Ireland are incredible. They are doing an amazing job during this incredibly difficult year.

My question is focused at the very small group of anti-mask protesters who, when they are active on the streets of Dublin and elsewhere, are targeting either, the people in this House and people on public transport. The difference is that we get protected by gardaí and we get barriers. Passengers on the Luas red line which serves St. James's Hospital are sitting ducks and can go nowhere. They are in an enclosed space and are being threatened physically and verbally. It is frightening enough at any time, but during the Covid pandemic it is doubly if not trebly so. The workers on public transport and the passengers need to be protected. The gardaí need to be protected. I do not expect the Minister to be able to wave a magic wand and solve the issue, but it needs to be raised in this House. We must call this fascism out.

I agree that it needs to be called out. The behaviour during the recent protests on Luas journeys, to which I believe the Deputy is referring, was despicable. That is not what the Irish people represent. The vast majority are complying. It was an insult and an attack on the vast majority of Irish people on that Luas on that day. There are mechanisms that allow a public transport operator or driver to call in support from the Garda. My information from talking to the authorities in this regard is that it has worked very well on any occasion to date when it needed to be used. The Garda is taking the approach that we are in this together. It is not policing with a heavy hand and the public transport operators similarly have not done that. I think in the incidents the Deputy referred to a specific complaint was not made in time for those operations to come into play, but they are in place. I support and reiterate the Deputy's call for us to stand up for the Irish people and call out those incidents where they take place.

Based on my discussions with the Garda, I am confident that it is dealing with this group as best it can. We cannot remain silent over the actions of a very small minority when the actions of the vast majority, who have suffered so much throughout 2020, are so compliant. If they are asked to cocoon and stay at home, they are doing that. The people required to take public transport provide essential services, such as going to Dublin Port to ensure goods are coming in, working on the front line in hospital and teaching in our schools. These are the people who are on the front line and are using our public transport. They need to know that we, in this House, do not stand for this kind of fascist behaviour and will always stand up against it. While it may be a very small number of incidents, when they happen, they are frightening, threatening and intolerable. I thank the Minister for his answer. I am sure we will work together on this on all sides of the House.

Wearing masks in those circumstances or any other public circumstances where it is appropriate is a courtesy to other people. It is a sign of respect as well as good public health practice. It is a modest statement of respect for other people. Irrespective of one's political views, outlook or ideology, how could one stand against such an expression of courtesy and respect to others? Whatever our differences, people deserve that from each other. That is why I think the vast majority of Irish people have bought into it and do not turn it into something completely different which turns into disrespect and discourtesy to other people. Where would be the sense of that? Where is the logic? What is to be gained from that?

Driver Test

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

3. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport the way in which he plans to deal with the long waiting list of persons now waiting for a driver test and for driver licence appointments; if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of driver instructors regarding access to testing centre facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35956/20]

I ask about the enormous backlog of people waiting for driver tests. The Road Safety Authority, RSA, has indicated that more than 93,000 learner drivers are waiting to sit their tests. The problem has been deteriorating over the year and has increased by 70% since June of this year. What measures are being taken to address this?

Covid-19 has created difficulties for many public services, including the National Driver Licensing Service, NDLS and the driver testing service, which are provided by the Road Safety Authority.

Closures during the initial lockdown earlier this year led inevitably to backlogs, while restrictions on the services, which are necessary in the interests of public health, have reduced capacity since the services reopened. The urgent health necessity which led to level 5 restrictions in October will have a further impact. This cannot be avoided, and no one will question that we must put public safety first.

In the case of the NDLS, all appointments must be booked in advance and the RSA is working with its providers to see how they can create additional capacity by making more evening and weekend hours available, the recruitment of additional staff, extending its postal service for those who are over 70 years, and expanding the online system from 9 November. The introduction of these steps will help ease some of the pressure, free up appointment slots and make it easier to apply online or find slots at local centres.

Driver testing always presented the greatest difficulties when operating under Covid-19 restrictions. Backlogs and waiting times will be addressed ultimately by increased capacity.

My Department recently approved the retention of 18 temporary driver testers whose contracts were due to expire in October and November, and the rehiring of another 18 testers whose contracts expired in May. In addition, my Department is in discussion with the RSA, on putting a more comprehensive plan in place to address the backlog. While discussions are well-advanced, there are no quick fixes, and the RSA estimates that it will be end of next year before we are back to the long-standing target of a ten-week wait period.

I am aware that some driving instructors have expressed dissatisfaction that they are currently not permitted to enter the test centres. Currently only people who absolutely need to enter a test centre can do so to minimise the risk. While this is an operational matter for the RSA, it is a decision the authority has taken in the interests of public health and safety, and not least that of the instructors, as well as those undergoing the tests, and the staff.

There is no quick fix for this, it looks like we will have at least another year of these extended delays. A total of18 additional testers have been hired. Has the option of extended working days, including testing on Sundays, evenings and early mornings, to expand the capacity been considered? To what extent has that been explored, and how quickly will the Minister of State's deliberations with the RSA or the RSA's investigation into expanding capacity be concluded? How soon can we expect to see a new regime in place?

The RSA is working to expand that capacity. The authority is working with its providers to see how it can do just exactly what the Deputy has outlined in regarding to extending weekend hours, overtime, the recruitment of additional staff as well as extending the postal service. It will need that extra capacity in terms of resources, but, at the same time, the throughput at the testing centres must be managed at all times. Many of the centres are small spaces, so that also needs to be managed in relation to the waiting areas. To give an idea of where we have come from, pre-Covid the waiting period was six and a half weeks whereas at the moment an applicant can expect to wait to between 25 and 30 weeks. It is a very difficult situation, but we are trying to prioritise essential workers at the moment, and there is an email address to which essential workers can write, namely, urgentdrivingtest@rsa.ie.

I want to come back to driving instructors. I have been contacted by driving instructors over the past number of weeks who have been refused entry to driving testing centres. Yesterday, I was sent a video to my phone from the west of Ireland, showing female and male driving instructors in rain that was falling horizontally and they were outside with a collapsable chair and an umbrella. That is what they were left with. They had no access to toilet facilities, warmth or sanitisation facilities. It is absolutely disgraceful. I raised this issue with the Minister of State at a committee meeting on 21 October 2020 and nothing has improved since. UNITE is on the case, and fair play to the union. There is a simple resolution. A dog would not be treated like this. The Government can intervene and the Minister of State or a senior Minister can intervene to resolve this issue at the flick of a switch. I am asking for that to be done, and for a commitment to be given to the instructors. I will send the Minister of State the video so that she can see it at first hand. Nobody would stand over it.

It is an operational matter for the RSA, but I hear the concerns of the Deputy, loud and clear. I know that in normal times, not just driving instructors, but somebody accompanying the learner driver doing their test, would normally be facilitated to wait in the waiting room in the driving test centres. However, these are not normal times. I take on board the Deputy's concerns in this regard. They are trying to minimise the throughput and the interaction at test centres, but I will speak to the RSA to see if further measures can be implemented. We are trying to adhere to public health guidelines and keep the testers, the learner drivers doing their tests and the staff within the centres, safe, and that also includes those who are accompanying the learner drivers.

There is a better solution that what is in place at the moment.

Maybe there is and we can look at that.

Light Rail Projects

Catherine Murphy

Question:

4. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport his plans to expand the DART+ programme beyond the plans announced in view of the fact that significant commuter populations are already living outside the geographical areas that will be provided for; if costings have been undertaken in respect of doubling rail lines west of Maynooth, County Kildare and south of Bray, County Wicklow, to increase frequency of services; and his plans to include Sallins and Naas, County Kildare in plans to further expand the electric rail network. [35958/20]

The DART expansion is very welcome, but I am trying to find out whether there are plans beyond that because there are significant populations beyond the area that is due to be expanded. Indeed, they are not just along that line; they are along the Kildare line as well. For example, the combined population of Naas, Newbridge, Sallins and other towns is in excess of 60,000, which puts pressure on the N7. A more sustainable type of transport is required. Has this been costed?

As the Deputy stated, DART+ represents the key current investment programme in commuter rail services in the greater Dublin area, and will likely be the largest ever investment in our rail network in the history of the State. It is important to set out what it will deliver. It will double the capacity of the network in the greater Dublin area; it will mean approximately 70% of all journeys on the entire national rail network will be on electrified track and it will enable sustainable, transport-orientated development at key locations along the network. These are all hugely ambitious and important outcomes and I know the Deputy recognises and welcomes the benefits DART+ will bring to the greater Dublin area, and I am glad that she supports it.

DART + has its origins in the transport strategy for the greater Dublin area, which sets out the geographic scope of the programme and the high-level strategic rationale. The development of transport strategies is a fundamentally important part of how we can improve transport in Ireland. They allow us develop an evidence-based and plan-led approach to transport infrastructure and transport services and, importantly, integrate with land-use planning to shape the location of housing and commercial development.

I think we can agree on two further points. First, we need to deliver on the strategies and not just develop them, and that means delivering the likes of DART+. Second, we need to keep requirements under review and, where necessary, consider whether additional projects and programmes are needed. That means we should push ahead with delivering DART+ as set out, while consulting people as is currently under way, and refining issues that may be raised during those consultations. We also need to think about whether additional projects and programmes might need to be considered, and that is where the review of the transport strategy for the greater Dublin area and, indeed, the review of the national development plan, NDP, have a role to play.

I look forward to seeing DART+ progress and, likewise, I look forward to the review processes in respect of both the strategy and the NDP, where some of the additional measures that the Deputy has mentioned could be considered.

I will provide an example. Kilcock is not as far from the city centre as Balbriggan, and there can be a mindset in relation to counties and geography. The population there is growing. The turning circle is 450 m away from that town, and it would seem obvious that the doubling of the line there is going to be a prerequisite to ultimately delivering the electrification project.

There is a more difficult scenario in Greystones from an engineering perspective, but there is a sizeable population in the area It is about thinking beyond the announcement, which is very welcome, and I concur that public consultation is required on the detail, particularly in respect of bridge lifts and how they are carried out. I am absolutely supportive of the project. It needs to be even more ambitious than it currently is. It is the next phase that I am trying to expand on.

In the public consultation there have already been a number of submissions suggesting, as the Deputy has, the double tracking to Kilcock, and there may well be merit in that suggestion because it is a very large and growing town, with a large part of the population that commutes, and will still commute, even in post-Covid times. As the Deputy mentioned, a similar expansion of the section from Bray to Greystones has more complexities because of the geography, the tunnel and the coastal aspect. There may be mechanisms, for example, using short sections of double track, or others that could be used. We could increase the frequency to have a DART running every 20 minutes, using some of those interim measures.

There is a wider review that needs to be done of that entire route because of the need for coastal defences against sea erosion. That is a bigger issue for the southern route from Greystones, but the whole line requires significant review, arising, first and foremost, out of the coastal defence issues.

The strategic housing development at Woodbrook in Shankill will suck up some of the increased capacity. I understand the intention is to increase capacity but not frequency.

In regard to costs, people living in Kilcock, for example, seeing that there is a much better service from Maynooth, will choose to drive there to access public transport. That puts pressure on car parking spaces and involves making part of the journey in a less sustainable way. The totality of costs must be looked at and that should include, for instance, the cost of providing surface space for car parking. That space must be provided when people are required to travel to access a service. The totality of costs needs to be considered when looking at the cost of doubling the line.

Another issue that arises in looking at the totality of costs is that we really need to change our entire housing, planning and transport systems at the same time as we are doing these DART+ projects. I hope to do the same in Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick. We want to move towards transport-led development that would see new housing being built within a walk or short cycle of the major public transport infrastructure in which we are going to invest. One of the main reasons we are making that investment is the benefits it will give in terms of improved quality of life, shorter commuting times, more sustainable, lower-emissions transport, better local environments and an improved public realm. The reality is that we have been going in completely the other direction. Half of new housing in the State in recent years was built in the counties surrounding Dublin and not located close to public transport nodes or other sustainable transport options. At the same time as we undertake the DART+ project and start implementing the other investments, the local authorities need to start reviewing their development plans in order to ensure that, instead of new development spreading out everywhere, we start building closer to the public transport nodes we are going to implement. It is in this context that investment in an upgrade to the Kilcock service could make real sense.

Trade Strategy

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

5. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the State should be involved in creating and expanding shipping routes directly to the Continent in preparation for Brexit; the engagements he has had to date with shipping companies on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35957/20]

An estimated 150,000 heavy goods vehicles use the British land bridge every year to move goods between Ireland and the Continent. My question is about the preparations the Department is making to enable that movement of goods to continue given the challenges presented by Brexit.

As signalled since the publication of the report, The Implications of Brexit on the Use of the Landbridge, by the Irish Maritime Development Office, IMDO, in 2018, it has been a matter of continuing concern that there is likely to be disruption to access to the British land bridge when customs and border controls between the EU and the UK are introduced at the end of the year. Since the publication of the report, my Department, in conjunction with the IMDO, has been keeping the issue of direct shipping routes to the Continent under close review, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The IMDO recently reviewed the conclusions and recommendations in the 2018 study and the issue of direct maritime connectivity and capacity to continental Europe at the end of the transition period. The IMDO analysis shows there is more than sufficient capacity on existing direct services in the roll-on, roll off - ro-ro - network between Ireland and mainland Europe to cater, if required, for all of the land bridge traffic, which is currently estimated at approximately 150,000 trucks per annum. It is also considered that the shipping industry is resilient, responsive and capable, without State intervention, of adjusting to and satisfying market demand.

My Department has had very regular discussions with shipping companies and other maritime stakeholders about this issue since January 2019. We have consistently received strong assurances from the shipping companies that if there is an increase in demand for shipping capacity on direct routes to continental Europe, they will respond. Significant additional shipping links have been added on direct routes to the Continent, even during the Covid-19 pandemic in summer 2020, with further improvements and increases in capacity announced to take place from January next. Indeed, in the past week, we have seen moves from Irish Ferries and Stena Line to change and increase their direct sailings to Cherbourg from January. Those changes mean that, between them, there will be a daily service from Ireland to France, resulting in a further increase in capacity on that direct continental Europe route.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The Minister and I met with the shipping companies regarding maritime connectivity in mid-July of this year. I met with them again recently to discuss this issue further. The companies confirmed the reassurance already given regarding their ability to respond to demand as needed. This engagement is in addition to the fortnightly meetings which take place between officials in my Department and the shipping companies as well as separately with haulage representatives. My Department has also had confidential briefings with individual shipping companies in which they have outlined a range of options they can implement quickly from January, if required.

The Government considers that direct State intervention to establish State shipping links in the context of Brexit would likely undermine a market response and result in an insufficient, inadequate and costly intervention being put in place. Such an intervention would be likely to result in legal challenges from incumbent shipping providers, breaches of EU state aid rules and consequent requirements for repayment of the state aids with interest, with resulting adverse impacts on the viability of any companies receiving such aid. It could also create difficulties for the State in extricating itself from the shipping market.

A communications campaign is currently under way, ACT Now and Prepare to Switch, which encourages importers and exporters to focus immediately on the direct route option. The campaign encourages stakeholders to assess their current routes to market, communicate their future needs clearly to shipping companies and trial alternative services in order that disruption to the British land bridge route does not preclude Irish businesses from accessing foreign markets.

My Department will continue to closely monitor and review the evolving situation regarding maritime connectivity to continental ports. We will remain in close consultation with the maritime sector and other relevant stakeholders on this issue.

The Minister of State will be aware that there was a significant reaction from the haulage industry to the IMDO's report. Hauliers contested the conclusions that were drawn in it, particularly in regard to ro-ro capacity. They also pointed out that we do not have daily ferry connections. When I raised this issue previously with the Minister of State, she said that individual hauliers should contact ferry companies to try to stoke up demand. I take it from her reply that the ferry companies are responding to this demand and that we will have daily direct-to-the-Continent departures and arrivals from January.

In regard to the IMDO report, it is important to note that its analysis took account of the capacity across the ro-ro network and on services between Ireland and continental Europe. As recently as last week, Stena Line and Irish Ferries both indicated that they will be putting on a daily direct service from January. Indeed, they have been responding to demand throughout the pandemic and they put on extra services during the summer. The Minister and I met with representatives of the shipping companies last July and I met with them again last week. My officials have had fortnightly meetings with all stakeholders in the maritime sector and we have been assured that they will respond to demand. The ACT Now and Prepare to Switch campaign is not just a call on the hauliers but also on importers and exporters to engage directly with shipping companies in regard to their needs.

I attended a webinar last Friday, which was addressed by the Minister, and this was, understandably, one of the significant issues that came up for discussion. I welcome the Minister of State's further elaborations in that regard.

Where are we at in terms of preparations for the checks and controls that will be required on our side, including the three-step process? What action has been taken to ensure hauliers are familiar with those processes in advance of 1 January next year? What engagement has the Minister of State had with counterparts in the North on an all-Ireland approach to these issues? There is a significant haulage industry and a significant port industry in the North.

As we move towards the end of the Brexit transition period, there is a lot of engagement happening at a cross-departmental level, incorporating Dublin Port, the Office of Public Works, Revenue and my Department, to ensure we are as well prepared as possible. A huge amount of work has gone into this over the past number of years. There have been many campaigns aimed at preparing businesses, including hauliers, for customs checks. I thank the haulage industry representatives for their ongoing engagement with my Department. We know that the situation from 1 January will not be easy and there will be delays at the UK land bridge. That is why our ACT Now and Prepare to Switch campaign is asking importers and exporters to assess their needs in respect of the direct routes to the Continent, communicate with the shipping industry and trial alternative routes in advance of 1 January. I have been engaging as well with the Minister of State with responsibility for trade, Deputy Troy, in calling for businesses to prepare in the two months remaining before the start of the new year.