Breaches of Covid-19 travel rules under Garda investigation

Breaches of Covid-19 travel rules under Garda investigation

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Gardaí have begun investigations into three overseas visitors for breaches of the Covid-19 regulations for people newly arrived into the Republic.
The three investigations arise from approximately 69,000 arrivals at Dublin Airport since it became mandatory to fill out the forms on May 28th.
The Irish Times has learned the three passengers refused to complete the “passenger locator forms” and their cases were then passed on to the Garda by the border management unit (BMU).
One of the visitors was located by gardaí and agreed to complete the passenger locator form while the other two remain under criminal investigation.
The forms must be completed to include contact details for all new arrivals at ports and airports and the details of where they intend to spend the following 14 days in quarantine. The BMU, an agency of the Department of Justice, is responsible for contacting the passengers during the 14-day period to check they are staying at the address they included on their forms and are complying with the quarantine condition.
Failure to complete the form, and to do so accurately, is a criminal offence punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to €2,500.
When checks are made on the passengers by the BMU and the passengers are not staying where they said they would be, that can be regarded as a failure to fill out the form accurately and can trigger a criminal investigation.

31,375 forms

The latest figures obtained from the Department of Justice reveal that 31,375 forms were collated by the BMU between May 28th and June 30th. The Dublin Airport Authority recorded 37,750 new arrivals between July 1st and last Friday, July 10th.
Of those 69,125 passengers arriving in the Republic since May 28th, only three refused to complete the passenger locator form, according to the department.

In such cases, the details of the person are referred to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) for criminal investigation.
The department said newly arriving passengers must undertake the 14-day quarantine by staying in the same address and “avoid contact with other people and social situations as much as possible”.
While they can go outside to exercise alone, they must stay two metres from other people and not use public transport, not visit other people, only go shopping for essentials and have no face-to-face meetings with “older or medically vulnerable people”.
The department added the passenger locator form would soon be “put on an electronic basis” and, as well as allowing the checking of new arrivals, it would also aid in contact tracing if there was a confirmed case of Covid-19 on a flight or ferry coming to Ireland.

Legal obligation

“If a person arrives into Ireland, they will be legally obliged to fill out this form, regardless of their nationality,” the department said.
While the BMU and the GNIB were collating the forms and carrying out checks, the department said because passengers numbers were “increasing significantly” the BMU would need to focus on its core work of immigration control and the Health Service Executive would make the follow-up calls to the new arrivals.
Some public health experts have expressed concern about the level of policing of the 14-day quarantine.
Prof Sam McConkey, an infectious disease specialist and head of the department of international health and tropical medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said this week it seemed there was a lack of enforcement of the rules.
If a group of tourists who breached the quarantine were to be sent to prison “it would send out a clear message” and “would change everything dramatically”, he added. “We don’t need new regulations. We just need to enforce the ones that are already there.”

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