Legislation to provide for the introduction of the mandatory quarantine system recently entered into force. Contractual arrangements have now been finalised and it is the intention of the Government to commence the operation of mandatory quarantine this week. The Department of Health is leading this process, supported by officials from several Departments, including the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Transport, Justice and Public Expenditure and Reform, as well as the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and via input from the private sector.
Passengers who have been in one of the designated states within 14 days of their arrival in Ireland must complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a designated facility. The 14-day period of quarantine can be reduced if travellers undergo testing on arrival and again on day ten and that testing does not return a positive for Covid-19. Mandatory quarantine applies to all passengers travelling from designated states, regardless of nationality, and includes Irish citizens. The aim of mandatory quarantine is to protect the population from challenges posed by new variants of concern.
Turning to the other aspects of the Deputy's question, the Irish aviation sector is critical to the economic development of the country. It is a key enabler of international trade and business, including foreign direct investment and tourism. However, it is clear that the aviation sector in Ireland and internationally is currently experiencing the most challenging crisis in its history. Many analysts are predicting that it will take several years for the sector to return to 2019 levels of activity. Traffic in 2020 was down approximately 80% on 2019 levels and revenue has fallen dramatically.
As the Deputy is aware, the Government has put in place a range of supports for businesses, including the aviation sector. These supports include the wage subsidy scheme, waiving of commercial rates, deferral of tax liabilities, the Covid restrictions support scheme, the credit guarantee scheme and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, SBCI, working capital scheme, with some of these now extended to 30 June 2021. Irish airlines and airports have availed of more than €200 million through these supports to date. Liquidity funding is also available through the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, ISIF, pandemic stabilisation and recovery fund for medium and large enterprises.
As regards specific supports for employment, we have the employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, which is a key component of the Government's response to the Covid-19 crisis to support viable firms and encourage employment.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The scheme has been extended to the end of June 2021.
In November 2020, in recognition of the very difficult circumstances facing the aviation sector, the Government agreed a revised funding package of €80 million specifically for Irish aviation in 2021. A part of this package, comprising more than €21 million, is being provided to the regional airports programme, RAP. The new RAP, which was published on 4 February, gives funding certainty to those airports up to 2025. The airports eligible for RAP support are Donegal, Kerry and Ireland West Airport, Knock. In addition, €32 million is being provided to Cork and Shannon airports through a new one-year Covid-19 regional State airports programme.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a €26 million Irish state aid scheme to compensate airport operators for the losses caused by Covid-19 and the travel restrictions imposed by Ireland to limit its spread. This scheme consists of three measures: a damage compensation measure, an aid measure to support the airport operators up to a maximum of €1.8 million per beneficiary and an aid measure to support the uncovered fixed costs of these companies. The aid will take the form of direct grants. Airports will be invited to apply for funding under the scheme shortly. The scheme will augment the supports already in place and help the industry to maintain connectivity and make a recovery from the impacts of Covid-19. The possibility that further targeted supports may be required later in 2021 cannot be excluded, particularly in the event that restrictions on travel remain in place throughout the forthcoming summer season.
My officials and I have maintained regular contact with key stakeholders throughout this crisis. On 5 March 2021, I chaired a special meeting of the steering committee of the National Civil Aviation Development Forum, NCADF. The NCADF, which was established through a recommendation of the national aviation policy in 2016, brings together senior stakeholders in the aviation industry, mostly at chief executive level. The meeting provided an opportunity for very constructive engagement with members of the committee, together with other senior leaders from Irish aviation.
It is clear from my engagement with the aviation sector that the priority issue for all those involved in the industry is that of planning to progress, as a matter of urgency, to the reopening of international travel as soon as circumstances allow. To this end, a sub-group of the NCADF has been tasked with developing proposals for restart and recovery of the Irish aviation sector. It is anticipated that the sub-group will present its report to the steering group of the NCADF next month. The work of the NCADF will inform Government decisions on the restart and recovery of the Irish aviation sector, which will also have regard to developments at EU and international level, as well as public health advice.
The Government is fully alert to the devastating impact of the global pandemic on international travel and values the critical role that aviation plays in the Irish economy. It is expected that it may be some time before it is possible to permit a large-scale return to air travel, but we remain committed to ensuring that the aviation sector can maintain the necessary core capability to retain strategic connectivity and to rebound quickly when circumstances allow.