Thursday, 15 October 2020
Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation
Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
I will deal with the two matters separately. On the matter raised by Deputy Sherlock, the news that Ryanair is closing its bases at Cork Airport and Shannon Airport for the winter comes as a huge blow to Cork and Shannon, to both regions and particularly to staff in the airports and the Ryanair staff affected. It is happening as a consequence of the fact that so few people are travelling now due to the pandemic and also in part because of the very strict travel rules we have put in place. These rules have been put in place for good reason, for reasons of public health. We want to get flying again, we want our airports to be busy again and we want all of these people to get back to work as soon as possible. For that reason the Government will next week consider whether we opt into the new EU traffic light system which was agreed at a European level only this week. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, attended those meetings and it was adopted at European level. We will decide next week whether we formally opt into it. While that is not going to get planes flying again over the winter period - they probably should not be - it at least means that if the pandemic goes back into retreat we will have a safe system in place for the summer period. No system will be 100% safe but there are systems which can be much safer.
On Deputy Ó Murchú's question, when it comes to rapid testing, be it loop-mediated isothermal amplification, LAMP, or antigen testing, it is acknowledged that they are not as sensitive or specific as PCR testing which is the gold standard. However HIQA has done a health technology assessment on it and that will help us to determine what role rapid testing may have to play in our fight against the virus. That is being considered by NPHET at the moment and I look forward to an early consideration of it and decision on it because it is important.