More than 20 flights into Ireland from London in the first three weeks of December contained at least one passenger who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
Between December 1st and December 18th one or more confirmed cases were noted on 24 separate flights from the British capital into Irish airports, The Irish Examiner reports.
The news comes in the wake of Ireland joining the majority of EU countries in halting direct air travel from Great Britain after the emergence of a mutated strain of coronavirus in southern England, which is believed to be more contagious.
“The Government should arrange testing for all London passengers from the past fortnight,” a source within Ireland’s contact tracing centres told The Examiner.
“We are already too slow in identifying flight outbreaks, and even when we have managed to do so we struggle to contact those who have sat in close proximity to the index case.”
The Department of Health was asked to clarify the number of flights inbound to Ireland thus far in December which have subsequently confirmed cases of the virus, but had not responded at the time of publication.
Typically, only the passengers in the three or four rows both behind and in front of a confirmed case will be reached by contact tracers.
Meanwhile, Cabinet has agreed that travel restrictions between Ireland and Britain will remain in place until December 31st.
The ban was due to expire at midnight on Tuesday, but has now been extended until New Year’s Eve.
Aer Lingus has said it will not operate flights from Britain to Ireland while the ban remains in place.
Flights from Ireland to Britain will continue in order to facilitate the repatriation of customers to Great Britain and those with connecting flights in Great Britain.
In a statement, the airline said “Customers whose flights have been cancelled will be contacted by Aer Lingus directly, and are entitled to a refund, voucher or rerouting at a later date.”