Due to the closure of services provided by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, I took measures to extend the validity of number of documents, including the learner permit. Any learner permits which were due to expire from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 inclusive have had their period of validity extended by 4 months. If it is the case that the NDLS centres have not re-opened before the extension period expires, the possibility of a further extension will be examined.
The RSA is currently working, in consultation with my Department, on plans for the resumption of the range of services and functions for which it is responsible, following the publication of the Government roadmap and, more recently, the National Return to Work Safety Protocol as agreed by employer and trade union representatives.
The resumption of driver testing raises particular problems in terms of compliance with the Protocol and in particular social distancing rules, as it requires the driver tester and the candidate to be within a two metre distance continuously for a period in excess of 20 minutes, in a very confined space which is not in itself a workplace under the control of the RSA.
I appreciate that the inability to carry out driving tests is among the many difficulties that we all are having to endure at this time, for those awaiting such tests. On a very preliminary appraisal of the Protocol, car driving tests may have to be the last of the statutory functions, for which the RSA is responsible, to recommence in or after Phase 5 of the Government's roadmap.
Driver theory tests are also currently suspended. Although the contractor is making plans to clear the inevitable backlog of applications, a date has not yet been confirmed as to when their offices can reopen, and they will only do so when they can ensure that all Covid-19 related restrictions in place at that time can be strictly adhered to.
It is not possible to carry out the driver theory tests remotely online, as it is vital that the identify of the candidate can be established, and that there is no possibility of fraud in relation to the test itself.
Dates for the resumption of the RSA's services, and any special arrangements which will need to be put into place to allow for the provision of these services, will be determined in consultation with the relevant health authorities.
The safety of the public is of paramount importance at this time, whether from infection or from deaths and injuries on the road, and in this as in all aspects of the Covid-19 crisis, my Department will be guided by NPHET and national experts.