France is considering requiring rapid COVID-19 tests from Irish truck drivers driving on a logistics route that has been key since Britain’s exit from the European Union, Ireland’s transport minister said on Sunday.
A large number of Irish lorries have started transporting goods via ferries to France in recent weeks to avoid delays on the more traditional route to continental Europe via the UK, which withdrew from EU trade rules on 1 January.
The new measures would focus on a more contagious variant of the coronavirus that was first detected in England but has become widespread in Ireland.
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan told RTE that France was considering requiring a PCR COVID-19 test, which could take several days, from most Irish travelers. Ireland requires similar tests from all arriving passengers.
France is also considering requiring a much faster antigen test, which can yield results in minutes, from Irish truck drivers.
“If the French government comes back with this demand, we would have to deal with it and make sure we can do it in a way that does not disrupt supply chains,” Ryan told RTE radio. “It would be demanding but I am convinced we will be able to do it.”
A demand from France for COVID-19 tests from British drivers caused significant delays and trade disruptions in December.
France announced on Friday that people traveling from outside the EU to France would need to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test, but that an antigen test would suffice from British truck drivers.
Ireland is a member of the European Union, but not of Schengen’s free travel area.
French Foreign Minister Clement Beaune said on Sunday that Paris would hold consultations this week to “strengthen control measures in the European area.”
But he warned that it could be difficult to accept rapid antigen tests from Irish drivers.
“Between France and Ireland, PCR tests work because we have the same thing; antigenic tests do not work because Ireland does not yet recognize them,” he said.