Anyone travelling for essential reasons across the border will not have to worry about being fined by Gardaí, according to Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú.
The Sinn Féin TD speaking about the measures, which came into effect on Monday February 8, which would see everyone in a vehicle, deemed to be engaged in non-essential cross-border travel, each being hit with a €100 fine.
Deputy Ó Murchú said: ‘Anyone who is travelling for essential reasons across the border has nothing to worry about.
"Gardaí will use their discretion, but they will issue fines as a last resort.
"People should not engage in non-essential travel and should stay within the 5km zone.
"We are going to be living with the need to suppress Covid-19 for a considerable time and the difficulties have been made even more real with the discovery and spread of new strains.
"Cross border fines show the need for an all Ireland response.
"We need to sort problem with data sharing on international travellers and the government needs to engage to a greater degree with the Northern Executive and the British government to deliver all Ireland or two- island response to combat the pandemic.
"After max suppression part: It is an absolute necessity for test, trace and isolate infrastructure to be made fit for purpose to chase down infections, when numbers are greatly reduced and society is opened to a greater degree.
"Travel restrictions and mandatory hotel quarantine should have happened at an earlier stage, but they have to happen now.
"There have been ‘mixed messages’ from the government and these restrictions should have been introduced earlier.
"Along with pre departure, there should be arrival PCR testing along with mandatory hotel quarantine.
"There have been cases of people who continued to travel after fines were handed out at the airport, which means that fines alone are insufficient.
"As Dr Tony Holohan told us at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport in November, there were periods last summer, when incidence numbers were much lower than now, where around a quarter of Covid-19 cases were linked to international travel."
He added that ‘very good progress’ has been made by the people of Louth, and around the State, in supressing the Covid-19 virus.
He said: "A huge amount of work has been done to keep the numbers down, but the numbers are still higher in Louth, where there is a 14-day incidence rate of 471, compared with the average in the State of 338.
"We need to continue to do what we are doing, as hospitals and nursing homes continue to be under pressure from this virus’.
Deputy Ó Murchú is one of a number of European elected representatives who were due to engage in a virtual meeting with the EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, on Monday.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Deputy Ó Murchú said he intended to raise the ‘huge ramifications’ from the EU difficulties with AstraZeneca, which led to the EU threatening to trigger Article 16 of the Irish Protocol.
He welcomed, however, the news that those aged over 70 are starting to get vaccinated next week, with a completion date of the middle of May. He said the decision not to use the AstraZeneca vaccine in the older population was ‘due to a lack of trial data for older people before the vaccine was approved. This decision may change in the future’.
Deputy Ó Murchú said: "The use of AstraZeneca for frontline workers should ensure that their vaccinations are sped up.
‘Everything is caveated on vaccine delivery but we more clarity around the anomalies in the various groupings of those in line for the vaccines."
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