Travel agents call for ‘common sense’ approach to pre-departure COVID-19 testing

Irish travel agents are calling for a “common sense” approach to pre-departure COVID-19 testing across…

Irish travel agents are calling for a “common sense” approach to pre-departure COVID-19 testing across Europe.

Currently, only travellers arriving into Ireland from the UK and South Africa have to produce a negative PCR test result.

The Irish Travel Agents Association says this has to be expanded, not only to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, but to help re-establish air travel.

The sector is experiencing a 95% decrease in business since the pandemic began.

Paul Hackett, CEO of travel agency Click and Go, believes we need to look to other countries.

He told Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh that the global crisis has been “horrendous” and consistently bad for the travel industry since March.

“The travel industry, naturally given a pandemic, is at the receiving end of possibly the worst set of data, set of numbers,” he said.

Travel agents call for ‘common sense’ approach to pre-departure COVID-19 testing

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Mr Hackett added that stakeholders, including airports, airlines and destinations, “did some incredible work” in 2020 to create a safe environment for travel.

However, “people are nervous about people travelling into the country and we need to address that”, he stated, with the best way to do this is through pre-departure airport testing.

Last week, the Foreign Affairs Minister said Ireland won’t introduce “tit-for-tat” travel restrictions on Germany after the country implemented a requirement that air passengers arriving there from Ireland will need to have had a negative COVID-19 test less than 48 hours before flying.

“Germany have put a PCR requirement for arrivals from Ireland, Spain have a PCR requirement of a negative test result for Irish arrivals once Ireland is designated red,” Mr Hackett said.

“We have to all understand that until we have a vaccination roll-out, we need to create a safe environment in which travel can commence.

“That can be done by pre-departure airport testing and we have the facilities and we have the functionality to do so.

“We should be doing so, it’s unfortunate that we haven’t been doing so.”

A RocDoc employee at the opening of its drive-thru Covid-19 testing facility at Dublin Airport, one of two coronavirus testing facilities opening at the airport.

He said Ireland should look at “common sense approaches” from regions such as the Canary Islands which require travellers to test negative for COVID-19 before they can check into hotels.

Mr Hackett added: “What we also need to do at the same time is really address the issues around the vaccination programme because something doesn’t seem to be right.

“We’re all talking about it but the data clearly indicates that something isn’t right here, is it the supply chain issue, if so is it European-wide?

“I’m also slightly concerned about the IT infrastructure to manage something like this.

“We had issues over Christmas with the recording of cases and the tracking of those cases.

Mr Hackett said currently “there are no serious numbers of people travelling”, with numbers this month “less than 5% of what it would have been last January”.

“Nobody is crying out for business to commence until we have the structures in place to do so,” he added.

Main image: Passengers at a near-empty Dublin Airport in July. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie