Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

19.30 9 Jul 2020


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Airports should have the same relaxed social distancing rules as public transport and pubs as passenger numbers increase, the DAA has said.

The Dublin Airport operator says the need for two metres of social distancing is a 'challenge'.

Pubs in Ireland are allowed reduce the distance to one-metre in some cases, while capacity has been increased on public transport alongside a rule making masks mandatory.

Spokesperson Paul O'Kane told The Hard Shoulder the two-metre restriction remains at the airport, despite changes elsewhere.

He said: "If you look at the advice in relation to pubs, that social distancing rule has come down to one metre, and it has also changed for public transport operators.

"If passenger numbers do get to a higher level, that social distancing of two metres will become a challenge - arguably we should have the same system as public transport and bars."

Mr O'Kane also said it's the Government rather than airport authorities that will decide whether temperature checks should be introduced for people arriving into the country.

He suggested such checks may provide reassurance for some passengers, but there's "little evidence" of the checks being effective in detecting COVID-19.

It comes after a Newstalk listener yesterday compared her experiences in Malaga Airport and Dublin Airport.

She highlighted the temperature checks in Malaga and the lack of them in Dublin.

Mr O'Kane addressed some of the concerns on this evening's show.

He said: "The State sets the rules in relation to temperature checks at ports and airports. From the very outbreak of the pandemic, the Irish Government decided they weren't going to introduce temperature checks - that was based on evidence from the World Health Organisation and European Centre for Disease Control.

"The position from the European Aviation Safety Agency and ECDC... they're saying that thermal screening and temperature checks have many limitations, and there's little evidence of their effectiveness in detecting COVID-19.

"A number of airports and states have decided to implement these.

"They're clearly a reassurance method for passengers... but there's a lot of debate about whether or not those type of temperature checks are actually effective."

He said that temperature checks may not work for a variety of reasons - noting people can "pop a couple of pills" to reduce their temperature, and that many people with coronavirus are asymptomatic.

Masks and cleaning

One of the concerns raised yesterday was about the lack of masks at immigration, which is overseen by the Department of Justice rather than DAA.

Mr O'Kane said airport authorities have given advice to all third-party operators working in the airport.

In terms of their own staff, he explained: "Masks are mandatory in certain areas, such as security screening. For other staff, we're strongly recommending face masks are worn throughout. We're keeping that policy under review.

"The airport management company doesn't necessarily have the ability to say to a third-party agency that 'your staff must behave in a certain way'".

Mr O'Kane reiterated that the airport couldn't be taking health and safety measures any more seriously.

He highlighted that they have more than 900 hand sanitisers across the campus, as well as more than 600 protective screens at close contact points

He said: "We've got regular deep cleaning and disinfection regimes now... we're using state-of-the-art, hospital grade cleaning equipment.

"The cleaning agent will actually keep surfaces clean for 28 days... but we're cleaning surfaces constantly."

Main image: File photo of Dublin Airport. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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