I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 and 250 together.
The Aviation Recovery Task Force Report acknowledges that maintaining restrictions on international travel is an unsustainable strategy in the medium to long term. There is a significant risk of loss of essential connectivity and market access opportunities for movement of goods and people this winter and beyond. Reduced connectivity leads to a rise in costs for essential travel and air cargo, with implications for the wider economy, competitiveness and investment, as well as a risk to the aviation industry itself.
The Government's approach to international travel to date has sought to protect public health and contain the disease while respecting that in certain circumstances travel will be essential. Under the plan for living with Covid-19, it is proposed that Ireland will broadly support the European Commission proposals for an EU common approach to COVID-19 and International travel, whereby testing would be considered as a viable alternative to travel restrictions.
The European Commission proposal would see the mapping of States by the European Centre for Disease Control according to the Epi data available, as a basis for applying a proposed common EU framework for COVID-19 restrictions, including testing for travel from higher risk locations for COVID-19. The details of the EU proposal are still being worked through by Member States at a European level. Ireland will continue to engage with Member States and the Commission to develop a regime that is consistent with the public health requirements.
The Government will continue to ensure that any proposed testing arrangements to facilitate international travel do not impact on resources and capacity available in the health sector for the testing and tracing of symptomatic patients and serial testing of high-risk groups or workplace environments.
My Department is engaging with colleagues across Government, including with Department of Health and the HSE, to explore the possibility of a robust testing and screening regime for international travel. In addition, my Department is continuing to engage with the aviation industry on the feasibility of airport testing, including pre-departures testing.
I hope to bring forward a Memo for Government concerning International travel within the coming fortnight.