The Irish Government needs to take immediate action on foreign travel to prioritise public health and provide clarity to the public, according to Róisín Shortall TD and co-leader of the Social Democrats.

Deputy Shortall commented, “The EU yesterday announced a green list of countries that it considers safe for non-essential travel, which excludes Ireland.

“There are a few reasons for this, including the Common Travel Area agreement with the UK and the fact that Ireland is not in the Schengen Zone, as well as the requirement for a two-week isolation period for travellers entering or returning to this country.

“However, there are mixed messages coming from the Government and the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, which is leading to confusion and concern among the public.

“We currently have no effective way of dealing with the importation of Covid-19 from badly affected countries as the guidance on self-isolation is not legally based and enforcement is inadequate. We absolutely cannot afford the current level of exposure, either for travellers themselves, their families or the wider community. We cannot put at risk everyone’s hard work over the past four months.

“The general guidance applying to all countries is not appropriate and is a blunt instrument. We need a way of distinguishing between countries with low levels of the virus and those where there continues to be high levels or where there’s been a second wave. On the one hand, we need a green list of countries deemed safe for travel while at the same time we urgently need a mechanism for dealing with countries that are deemed unsafe. We must be able to do this by either banning flights from unsafe countries or by introducing a legally binding, fully supervised quarantining requirement, as is the case in New Zealand.

“Most people would now agree that the decision at the start of this pandemic to continue allowing flights from Northern Italy and to Cheltenham was a serious mistake which accelerated the exposure of the Irish public to the virus and allowed rapid transmission. If the clock could be turned back on any decision, it would certainly be this one.

“Now we are in a similar position facing into a potential second wave, and we have the opportunity to correct those mistakes made in March.

“This situation is dynamic. We need to respond rapidly and adapt our response constantly as the situation changes. What is needed now is full alignment between the Government’s advice and the Chief Medical Officer, and immediate implementation of an effective way to deal with visitors from unsafe countries.

“There is no time to spare in this. The virus will not wait for dithering in decision making. I am calling on the Government to provide absolute clarity on Ireland’s approach to foreign travel. They must set out the list of safe countries for travel currently, and at the same time introduce the necessary powers to either ban flights from certain countries or establish fully supervised, legally binding mandatory quarantine measures.”


1 July 2020

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