Legislation facilitating emergency public health powers will not be allowed to run further than February 2022.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Seanad that he is amending the legislation to ensure that after a five-month extension to 9 November, set to be approved by the Oireachtas, the powers can only be extended for a further three months beyond that.

"If we do somehow find ourselves in a position whereby, we would need some targeted public health measures past next February, we will reintroduce another bill," Mr Donnelly said.

This means that the emergency powers will be allowed run until 9 November and could be extended one more time until February 2022.

Mr Donnelly expressed hope that the powers would not be extended beyond 9 November.

However, he said that it was important that public health measures are unwound in a sustainable way.

Minister Donnely described the powers contained in the current bill as draconian and said: "They don't sit well with me and they shouldn't sit comfortably in any healthy democracy."

Opposition parties have criticised the information given by the Government about the effect of Covid-19 emergency powers.

Social Democrats co-leader Roisín Shortall said she had "serious concerns" about the proposal.

She said the existing powers were extremely wide ranging.

Ms Shortall criticised the failure of Government to brief the opposition on the developments.

Labour Party spokesman Brendan Howlin said the powers should be extended for a shorter period.

"It is reasonable all these powers will be gone in September and if there is compelling health reason beyond September, we will review that on a monthly basis," Mr Howlin said.

He said he was aware of two cases of people who are staying in mandatory hotel quarantine who were in "unacceptable conditions".


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Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan told the Dáil that as the vaccine programme is rolled out, "fully vaccinated people" who do not present a health risk should "not to be subject to pre-arrival testing or quarantine requirements."

The latter is already provided for in exemptions to mandatory hotel quarantine.

Minister Ryan said he would like to see that principle more broadly applied in the context of the opening of international travel.

Those who are fully vaccinated should not have to wait until mid-August to get a digital green certificate in order to travel with freedom from "current pre-arrival PCR and quarantine requirements", he said.

"There is a need for pragmatism to allow for an early discontinuation of these public health requirements for fully vaccinated people to travel within the EU and between certain non-EU EEA countries", he added.

He is confident that in time Ireland will be able to join the Digital Green Certificate.

It will be formally adopted on 1 June and come into force on 1 July, with 6 weeks, until mid-August, for states to come into compliance.

Ireland's system is compliant with EU standards, he said.

It allows for proof of vaccination upon request.

He said that in Europe there were 5 million flights in 2020 compared to 11 million in 2019.

Passengers are down to as low as 3% in Irish airports, the Minister said.

He said that the pandemic has hit airlines hard and also connectivity, which has increased the cost of doing business.

A signal to ease restrictions would help companies to avoid another round of cuts, he said.

He added that air traffic levels are not expected to return to 2019 levels until 2025.

Sinn Féin TD Darren O'Rourke criticised what he described as a lack of clarity and planning on behalf of the Government in relation to international travel.

"We didn't introduce mandatory testing for international travel until we were reporting 8000 cases a day," he said.

This led to a total breakdown of confidence in travel, Deputy O'Rourke added.

He said that workers who have lost their jobs bear the brunt, as do customers.

The Digital Green Cert provides a "real opportunity" for a "safe return to international travel", he said, and called on the Ministers to ensure we are ready.

Labour's Duncan Smith TD said the Digital Green Cert represents a "light at the end of the tunnel", and he welcomed Minister Ryan's comments in support of adopting the measure.

"This is where the rubber meets the runway", he said.

Rapid antigen testing must play a role here, Deputy Smith said.

Fine Gael TD Ciaran O'Donnell welcomed Minister Ryan's remarks on re-opening flights, but asked what role would be played by the "status of variants of concern" to which the Minister referred.

He asked that the re-opening plan would coincide with the Digital Green Cert coming on stream on 1 July.

"The stakes are so high along the western seaboard", Deputy O'Donnell said.

"Shannon airport is the key economic driver - Aer Lingus are key to that", he said.

He asked the government to ensure the Aer Lingus cabin crew base at Shannon continues to operate.

It is also essential to maintain connectivity to Heathrow and to ensure the continuation of trans-atlantic flights, Deputy O'Donnell added.

He said that any funding for Aer Lingus must be quid pro quo.

Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe said that he met the pilots protesting outside the Convention Centre.

Several deputies referred to the pilots' protest.

He said that it is essential that Ireland restore the common travel area with the UK "with immediate effect".

There is also a need to wind back mandatory hotel quarantine, Deputy Crowe said.

Vaccinated passengers from the US should be allowed easy entry, he added.

Solidarity-PBP TD Paul Murphy said that the government should re-nationalise Aer Lingus and "defend the jobs, conditions and incomes" in the industry.

He accused government TDs of acting cynically in trying to appear to support workers.

He said he did not agree with lifting mandatory hotel quarantining, which could have "potential disastrous results".

Deputy Murphy said the operating of quarantine should not be outsourced, but operated by the health service, and should be extended to Britain, amid the warnings of the spread of the variant first identified in India.