Thursday, 28 January 2021

Questions (200)

Róisín Shortall


200. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice the procedure in place at Dublin Airport and ferry ports to check PCR test certificates for incoming passengers; if her attention has been drawn to reports that at the moment there is very little checking of certificates by INIS officials; if she has discussed this matter with her counterpart in the Northern Ireland Executive in order to put in place an all-island approach; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4543/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

From midnight on 15 January 2021, all passengers arriving into Ireland by air or ferry are required to produce evidence of a negative/not detected RT-PCR Covid-19 test, taken up to 72 hours prior to arrival.

Regulations under the Health Act 1947 underpin these new requirements. Under these Regulations, passengers are legally required to produce evidence of a negative/not detected result from an RT-PCR Covid-19 test when boarding a ferry or aircraft and will be denied boarding by the carrier if they cannot produce such evidence unless they fall into the very limited exemption categories.

Checks of evidence of a negative/not detected RT- PCR Covid-19 test on all arriving passengers into the State are carried out by Immigration Officials of the Border Management Unit of my Department and An Garda Siochana at ports of entry to the State. All cases where a test result is not available, or where the authenticity of the test result documentation is queried, are referred for further investigation to An Garda Siochana who have a presence at all approved ports of entry to the State. Since the introduction of these regulations on 16 January 2021, in excess of 150 such cases have been referred to An Garda Siochana for further investigation at ports of entry nationwide.

Passengers who arrive in an Irish port or airport without evidence of a negative/not detected test result or with a confirmed fraudulent test result will commit an offence and may be subject to prosecution, punishable by a fine not exceeding €2,500 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or both. In such cases An Garda Síochána who will prepare a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I am advised by my colleagues, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Health that North-South contact and cooperation on the island is ongoing at both operational and political level. As public health measures are under constant review in both jurisdictions, these North-South collaborative arrangements remain important.

Both administrations are seeking to adopt similar approaches, where it is appropriate to do so and on the advice of our respective Chief Medical Officers. This approach is underpinned by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed by the Chief Medical Officers of the Department of Health and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to strengthen North South co-operation on the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In November, this overarching agreement was supplemented with a further MOU in relation to a framework for mutual support for the provision of critical care.

The Government continues to work in close contact and cooperation with the British Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, with the active involvement of health administrations in both jurisdictions, through regular conference calls and close contact between our respective Chief Medical Officers, including within the framework of the MOU.

In the coming period, officials from both jurisdictions will continue to exchange views to foster commonality in their approach, where possible.