knowledge | 10 February 2021 |

COVID-19: Updated Regulations Affect Most International Arrivals

New regulations1 that affect most international arrivals are effective from 6 February to 9 June 2021 (an end-date which may be extended). SI 45 requires most adults arriving in the State who have been anywhere outside the State, other than Northern Ireland, within 14 days of their arrival, to provide contact details and a specific address at which they will reside for 14 days (or for the entire duration of their stay, if it is shorter than 14 days).

The requirement applies equally to Irish and non-Irish people. It also now concerns individuals arriving into the State from Northern Ireland who have been anywhere outside the State and Northern Ireland within the 14 days preceding the person’s arrival in the State. However, the obligation does not apply to a person arriving in the State from Northern Ireland who has not, in the preceding 14 days, been anywhere other than the State and Northern Ireland.

The core obligation

From Saturday 6 February 2021 to Wednesday 9 June 2021, SI 45 obliges most people aged 16 years or more arriving in the State who have been in any state, country, territory or region outside the State, other than Northern Ireland, within 14 days of their arrival (“international passengers”), to complete a “passenger locator form” (a “PLF”). This can be done in paper form or by an online process, the detail of which SI 45 prescribes. This requires most such international passengers to declare a specific address in the State, or in Northern Ireland, at which the international passenger will reside for a 14-day period and to provide his or her contact information during that time. Where an international passenger travels directly to Northern Ireland after arriving in the State, the 14-day period begins upon the person’s arrival in the State.

Unless exempt (see below), an international passenger who arrives at an airport or port must either:

  1. complete the online PLF prior to arriving in the State and then provide a receipt (a “PLF receipt”) that is generated by the online passenger locator website, to a nominated State official in the relevant airport or port, or
  2. provide a properly completed paper version of the PLF to the relevant State official in the particular airport or port.

Where an international passenger arrives, other than at an airport or port (for example from Northern Ireland), he or she must complete the online PLF prior to arriving in the State and retain a copy of their PLF receipt for 14 days after arriving. Should an international passenger be requested to do so, he or she must present this PLF receipt to a member of the Garda Síochána.

If an international passenger’s stay in the State will be for less than 14 days, her or his residence at the specified temporary “place of residence” is to be for the entire duration of the person’s stay in the State.

An international passenger may change his or her “place of residence” during the 14-day period but, if that happens, and if the person is residing within the State, the international passenger must notify that change to a nominated State official.

Nominated State officials (such as Immigration Service personnel and Health Service Executive “contact-tracers”), as well as members of the Garda Síochána, may require any international passenger who is within the State to provide more information about the person’s contact details and proposed “place of residence” for the 14-day period.

SI 45 also requires individuals or companies who organise or facilitate the arrival of a relevant traveller by providing them with access to or use of a vehicle (“travel organisers”) (such as car-hire businesses) to take reasonable steps to inform the international passenger of the requirement to complete the PLF process.

The current end-date of 9 June 2021 may be amended by a further statutory instrument.

Public health information

State officials may contact an international passenger during the prescribed 14-day period after the person’s arrival (or at any stage during the international passenger’s stay in the State, if that is for less than 14 days) in order to provide the international passenger with relevant public health information. This includes international passengers who travel directly to Northern Ireland upon arriving in the State.

Enforcement of mandatory quarantine requirements

The information provided in a PLF may also be used by members of the Garda Síochána in relation to the enforcement of mandatory quarantine requirements2.

Relevant ports and airports

The requirements that SI 45 imposes apply to international passengers arriving in the State’s principal airports (such as Dublin, Cork and Shannon3) and ports (such as Dublin, Cork and Rosslare4), as well as international passengers who arrive other than at an airport or port.

As outlined above, the place at which the person arrives in the State is relevant with regard to whether the person is obliged to present his or her PLF when arriving into the State (if at a designated airport or port) or must do so only where and when requested by a member of the Garda Síochána (if the person arrives into the State otherwise than at a designated airport or port).

Scope

SI 45 does not draw any distinction based on nationality and so, subject to the exemptions mentioned below, this obligation applies equally to Irish citizens and to others.

Unlike under the previous requirements regarding PLFs5, this obligation applies to international passengers arriving into the State from Northern Ireland (who have been anywhere outside the State and Northern Ireland within the 14 days preceding the person’s arrival in the State) and also to those who travel directly to Northern Ireland upon arriving in the State from any place other than Northern Ireland.

The adult accompanying a child / children aged less than 16 years who arrives in the State must set out the number of children travelling with him or her in the adult’s PLF.

Exemptions

Reflected above, certain categories of people are exempt from this obligation to complete the PLF process. Notably, an exception no longer exists for any person arriving into the State from Northern Ireland who has been anywhere outside the State and Northern Ireland within the 14 days preceding the person’s arrival in the State.

The principal exempt categories are:

  • ‘transit’ passengers (ie those who arrive in the State for the purposes of passing through the relevant airport or port in order to travel to another state, and who do not leave the relevant airport or port);
  • drivers of heavy goods vehicles;
  • ship and aircraft crews who arrive in the State in the course of performing their duties;
  • foreign diplomats; and
  • persons aged less than 16 years (the accompanying adult must provide the relevant child’s information).

Data protection

Personal data that the State receives through PLFs and follow-up enquiries that State officials might make of any international passenger residing in the State must be permanently deleted within 28 days.

However, personal data collected under SI 45 may be retained for so long as is necessary if the data are required for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of a criminal offence.

Offences

Under the Health Act 1947 (as amended), under which SI 45 is made, it is an offence for an international passenger (unless an exemption applies) to fail to:

  • where the passenger arrives at an airport or port, provide a completed PLF or a PLF receipt to the nominated State official in the relevant port or airport or to ensure that the information provided in such a PLF is not false or misleading;
  • where the passenger arrives other than at an airport or port, retain his or her PLF receipt for 14 days after arriving and, where requested to do so, provide the PLF receipt to a member of the Garda Síochána or to ensure that the information provided in such a form is not false or misleading;
  • update the information in a PLF promptly if the international passenger is residing in the State and, within the 14 days following his or her arrival, that information changes in any material way; and
  • provide relevant additional information to a nominated State official or a member of the Garda Síochána, if the international passenger is residing in the State and if the official or garda seeks that information on the basis of a reasonable suspicion that the information provided in the relevant PLF is incomplete, inaccurate or misleading, or if the official or garda seeks verification of any information in the relevant PLF. Such checks may be made during an international passenger’s stay in the State and not merely (for example) upon arrival in the particular port or airport.

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  1. Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Requirements) (Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form) Regulations 2021 (SI 45 of 2021).
  2. Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (Restrictions upon Travel to the State from Certain States) (No 4) Regulations 2021 (SI 44 of 2021).
  3. Also including Donegal, Ireland-West (“Knock”), Kerry and Waterford Airports.
  4. Also including Cobh, Killybegs, Galway and Waterford ports.
  5. Contained in the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Requirements) (Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form) Regulations 2020 (SI 181 of 2020) (as amended) and revoked and replaced by SI 45.

This briefing is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.

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