Irish holidaymakers face weeks of possible travel misery and cut summer flights due to Covid-19 staff absences and labor shortages.
It comes as Aer Lingus has canceled more than 60 flights over the past week.
25 flights due to depart and arrive at Dublin Airport on Friday and Saturday were blocked yesterday, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded.
Among them, a social movement at Lyon airport today led to the cancellation of two return flights to its airport.
Flights to and from Gatwick and Amsterdam have also already been cancelled.
It comes as figures show those most affected by the summer surge are people of working age between 25 and 54, although the true level of infection is unknown.
The positivity rate of people having HSE PCR tests rose to more than 40% yesterday, the highest in months and the number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 rose to 812, including 32 in intensive care.
UCD virologist Professor Gerald Barry has said Covid-19 vaccines should not be allowed to expire. “Open them up,” he urged, to allow people who would like a second booster shot but are currently excluded to receive the refill shot.
It comes amid growing fears that a spike in Covid cases could affect transport services across the country as the peak summer vacation period kicks in.
Although major transport operators including Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail say disruption has been kept to a minimum so far, all are acutely aware of rising levels of Covid among workers.
The National Transport Authority of Ireland (NTA) has said that all public transport operators are currently facing an increasing challenge in recruiting and retaining staff, and that some services need to be canceled at short notice due to Covid and the other illnesses.
Bus Éireann said over the past three weeks it had seen an increase in Covid-19 cases among its staff and several services had to be cancelled.
A spokesperson for the bus network said that currently, nationwide, more than 98% of services are running on schedule.
Irish Rail currently has 38 staff furloughed due to Covid-19, which it says represents less than 1% of its overall workforce, and this is not currently impacting services.
Dublin Bus is experiencing an absence of around 2% of staff with around 50 drivers currently absent due to Covid-19, a transport union representative has said.
Earlier this week, the NTA said it could not offer more services for concerts in Marlay Park, Dublin, due to a shortage of staff.
“Generally, services are quieter during the summer months as schools and third-tier colleges are closed,” an NTA spokesperson said.
“The authority welcomes additional passengers from the various events that take place over the summer, but in many cases they do not have the capacity to offer additional services for these events, especially if they have a impact on the operation of regular services.”
National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O’Leary said that although transport operators are only experiencing a staff shortage of 1-2pc it “would have an impact”. “I understand that there are several operations with personnel on Covid-related illness, whether it is with Covid itself or they are isolating themselves, and when I say operations I mean the main drivers, to Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.
“What I hear anecdotally is that up to 50 Dublin Bus drivers are out and up to 30 or 40 in Bus Éireann, which of course will have an impact in itself.
The chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, said the hospitality industry was once again very concerned about Covid-19 as restaurateurs saw an increase in staff shortages over the past three weeks.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of staff going out with Covid at the moment. I guess as we see airline cancellations, especially with Aer Lingus, so if that company sees Covid, we’re going to see it across the country in all sectors,” he said. “In hospitality, we can see it right now, our difficulty is that if a chef is out with Covid, then the whole business is under pressure.”