Newly released government figures indicate that almost 111,000 air passengers entered Ireland through Dublin airport last month, with as many as 61% of these journeys being classed as “non-essential”.

Thousands more reportedly entered through Shannon and Cork airports.

According to the figures, which come from the Department of Transport, the main bulk of the flights came from the UK, the Netherlands, France and Poland.

According to results from the Passenger Locator Form, which allows one to declare whether their journey was essential or not as defined by the EU, only 39% of those travelling said they had an “essential” reason for doing so. What’s more, according to Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy, around 50% of passengers did not fill out the Passenger Locater Form at all, meaning the true figure could be significantly higher.

While a mandatory PCR test at the border was eventually brought in, it is reported that 64,000 people entered the State in January before this measure was introduced. Furthermore, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has criticised a simple PCR test as inadequate, saying that it could miss as many as 40% of positive cases after returning false negatives.

It is believed that many of the passengers who entered the State are Irish residents returning home after travelling abroad to visit relatives for Christmas.

The government has since implemented a mandatory 14 day quarantine for those entering the country, with a “penal provision” for those who fail to comply. Those caught outside their home while they’re supposed to be quarantining can face a fine of as much as €2,500, and/or 6 months in prison.