Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (107)

Dara Calleary

Question:

107. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport the tendering process for the antigen testing process for hauliers accessing Irish ports to travel to France; if consideration will be given to financially support existing test providers who are providing an antigen service in other parts of the country to provide free tests to users; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6363/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Up until very recently, all EU Member States, including Ireland, exempted essential international transport workers (including HGV drivers and Light Commercial Vehicle drivers) not displaying COVID-19 symptoms from quarantine and testing requirements. However, in recent weeks, in response to new variants and growing Covid-19 numbers, several EU Member States introduced restrictions for transport workers.

On 14 January 2021, France notified Ireland that it was preparing to introduce a requirement that hauliers travelling from Ireland to France (including via the UK land bridge) must furnish a negative Covid-19 test result Given the extreme urgency involved, my Department issued a request for quotes and entered into a contract to provide the service by 27 January, as required. The service involved the provision of antigen testing for truck drivers in the vicinity of the roll-on roll-off ports. This arrangement is in place for an initial period of 12 weeks, should these requirements remain.

Given the extreme urgency involved, my Department relied on the negotiated procedure without prior publication, as set out in the derogation at Regulation 32(2)(c) of the European Union (Award of Public Authority Contracts) Regulations S.I 284/2016 for this procurement.

It is my intention to run a full tendering process to provide COVID-19 testing services for freight drivers in the event that the French requirements for a negative test prior to embarkment remains beyond this initial period or other countries introduce such a requirement. Part of this process will address multiple locations for testing, to facilitate drivers. I would encourage any existing test providers to engage in that tendering process and full consideration will be given to any practical proposals.

Currently, there are four sites available to drivers. These have been situated close to ports. This service is being provided by the State to drivers at no cost to themselves or their companies.

It is open to any company to arrange testing directly with private testing providers and that is a commercial decision for each company. If they chose this option, I would advise that they ensure that all the requirements of the French authorities are met.