New protocols to test and handle air passengers under the EU traffic light system will be in place by early November, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
Speaking at the Cork Chamber Business Breakfast, Mr Martin said rapid antigen tests that can test for Covid-19 in a matter of minutes were being assessed by public health officials and could form part of the 'weaponry' when lockdowns are eased.
The Taoiseach was responding to a question from Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy on the impact the pandemic has had on air travel after Ryanair announced it was closing its bases in Cork and Shannon for the winter.
"We are opting into the EU system but the problem is many countries are on the red list," Mr Martin said. "The reality is the virus has collapsed travel. That is just the reality. But that said we do need to be preparing ourselves for emerging out of this.
"By early November we will have our position very clear in terms of the precise way we are going to introduce the EU commission protocols for people coming in from red countries for people coming in from orange countries."
"The numbers are quite horrifying when you look at the amount travelling last year compared to now."
He said there has been a reluctance by health officials and the Government to approve rapid antigen tests which are still being assessed by countries across the globe.
"HIQA did a big study and public health are now validating that," the Taoiseach said. "The French are going to utilise antigen testing which they feel will be a game-changer. I'm looking for an acceleration of the responses from public health on this. Even as a complementary weapon on top of the PCR testing that we currently have," he said.