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Government finally working on bringing COVID-19 testing & screening system to Shannon Airport

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A Clare TD Government TD has confirmed that work on bringing a “robust” COVID-19 testing and screening system to Shannon Airport is underway.

Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan (GP) has said engagement is ongoing between Government officials, the HSE and the Department of Health to explore the possibility of a robust testing and screening regime for international travel. Consultation with the aviation industry on the feasibility of airport testing such as pre-departures testing is also forming part of the discussion.

One of the key recommendations of a report by the Aviation Recovery Task Force published in July was the introduction of a comprehensive testing and tracking system to minimise travel risks associated with international travel to replace blanket restrictions.

The call to have proper testing at Irish airports including Shannon was previously voiced by Deputy Michael McNamara (IND) in May in Dáil Éireann who called on then Minister for Health Simon Harris (FG) to follow the example set by Vienna in Austria.

Such calls were reiterated by Clare politicians in subsequent months including Cllr Pat Daly (FF) at the July meeting of Clare County Council.

Clare TD, Joe Carey (FG) in a parliamentary question asked Minister Ryan if the Government would consider following the example of Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, which is currently trialling a pre-departure Covid testing system for passengers.

In his response, Minister Ryan said Ireland will “broadly support” the European Commission proposals for an EU common approach to Covid-19 international travel, whereby testing would be considered as a viable alternative to travel restrictions. The Green Party leader also outlined that he was hopeful to bring forward a ‘Memo for Government’ concerning international travel within the next fortnight.

Deputy Carey in a statement to The Clare Echo stressed the need to introduce an innovative testing regime to replace blanket restrictions which were “strangling our airports and decimating our entire aviation sector.”

He stated, “Time is of the essence. Ryanair has threatened to pull out of Shannon and Cork for the winter if the Government does not implement the EU traffic light system to allow for a return of international air travel, while Aer Lingus’ transatlantic and Heathrow flights remain grounded.”

“We have 140,000 people working in the aviation sector in Ireland, many of whom work in the Shannon region. Our aviation sector provides a huge amount of direct and indirect jobs, in Shannon Airport itself but also in supporting highly skilled jobs in MRO (manufacturing, repair, overhaul) and in aircraft leasing. In addition, the connectivity delivered through Shannon is of critical importance for business and tourism,” Carey said.

Further supports for Shannon Airport are under consideration as part of Budget negotiations, Minister Ryan added. “I have committed to undertaking an examination of the future viability and sustainability of Shannon Group, and I will consider restructuring measures, financial supports and any other measures that may be necessary and appropriate as part of this wider review of Shannon Group. I will bring recommendations to Government in this regard shortly. It is my intention that the Company, including Shannon Airport, will be well positioned for the future particularly given the importance of Shannon Airport to the economy of the Midwest region and indeed nationally.”

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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