Republic of Ireland news

Leo Varadkar repeats advice to avoid non-essential travel

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he would like to see a return to international travel as soon as that is safe". Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
Aine McMahon PA

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he would like to see a return to international travel as soon as it is safe to do so, adding that Ireland cannot close itself off indefinitely.

Current advice says to avoid non-essential travel and Mr Varadkar stressed that those guidelines were still in place.

"The current travel advice, however, has not changed and that is to avoid non-essential travel," he said.

A 'green list' of countries is still set to be published by the Dublin government next week in coordination with the European Union, but Mr Varadkar cautioned that it will be subject to change and updated every two weeks.

For people who travel to the countries that are on the green list, the 14-day quarantine will not apply.

"Speaking as minister for employment and trade, I would certainly like to see a return to international travel as soon as that is safe," he told reporters in Dublin today. "I am also conscious of the fact that thousands of people work in the domestic tourism sector and in our airports and airlines.

"I'm also conscious that people have worked very hard over the past few months and are looking forward to a break but it has to be done safely.

"Ireland has been very successful in getting the number of new coronavirus cases down to less than 20 - not that many countries around the world have done that.

"We have to be smart about the fact that if we open our country to areas where the virus is still circulating and virulent, then that does run the risk of re-importation.

"At the same time we all know we can't cut off the country forever. We can't stop people from visiting their friends and families. We can't stop business executives coming into Ireland to create jobs so we need to get that balance right."

Mr Varakdar said a Cabinet sub-committee will take place in the next few days on the issue of travel.

A recommendation on the issue will be brought to the Cabinet this coming Monday to give clarity to people who want to book holidays.

Earlier this week, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said people should cancel their foreign holidays as it risks importing cases of coronavirus to Ireland.

Mr Varadkar said people should listen to government advice and reiterated that people should avoid non-essential travel.

"We still plan on publishing a green list of countries where it is safe to travel to. We have a new Government and the new Taoiseach and Minister for Health are going to want to study matters," he said.

Mr Varadkar talked the down likelihood of mandatory quarantine for travellers being introduced.

"It is very onerous on people and very difficult to enforce," he said. "We have seen countries like New Zealand where the health minister just resigned. It is very difficult to enforce so hopefully it is not going to be a long-term requirement."

In the UK, British prime minister Boris Johnson's father Stanley has been criticised by MPs after flying to Greece despite government advice urging Britons against all but essential international travel.

The 79-year-old arrived in Athens yesterday evening to visit his mountain villa, and shared a video of his plane landing in the capital on social media platform Instagram.

He also posted a picture of himself wearing a face mask, which appeared to be taken in an airport.

Mr Johnson flew to Athens via Bulgaria, the Daily Mail said, because the Greek government has banned direct flights from the UK until mid-July.

He told the paper he was visiting the country on "essential business trying to Covid-proof my property in view of the upcoming letting season".

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