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Coveney: 'I don’t think we should prevent flights landing in Ireland or ban international travel'

Coveney said people arriving in Ireland will be checked up on.

Coveney said the green list should be published next week.
Coveney said the green list should be published next week.

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN Affairs Simon Coveney has said he does not think international flights should be banned from landing in Ireland.

Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing, the minister said tourists should not be coming into Ireland if they cannot restrict their movements when they get here.

Currently, it is not legally mandatory for someone to be detained to ensure they are self-isolating. Anyone arriving in Ireland must fill out a passenger locator form with their name, contact details and where they will be self-isolating for 14 days.

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has previously stated that mandatory quarantine is not workable, something the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has also agreed with.

Passenger locator form

Coveney said the government was beefing up its supports to contact those who have filled in the passenger locator form once arriving in Ireland, something that was committed to last week by Cabinet.

“Irish people who are holidaying in counties like Kerry and many others want to know that they can go and holiday with their family safely.

“So we are considering as a government the measures we can take to improve communications, to introduce improved protocols at airports and to ensure that the passenger locator form that passengers come into Ireland are required to fill out that they can move it online to make sure that we can stand over the accuracy of the information that was given.

“We are looking at putting in place a call centre which would follow up using that information that comes from the passenger locator forms,” he said.

“Don’t forget there is a legal requirement on anyone that comes into Ireland to fill out a passenger locator form.

“If a follow up takes place and shows they aren’t in the location that they have indicated that they’d be staying at I think it could well be deemed that they filled out that form in an inaccurate way which would be against the law and the penalties are quite severe for that,” said Coveney.

No ban on international travel

The minister said the government is constantly trying to get the balance right between deterring people coming to Ireland and only encouraging people who need to come to Ireland, who perhaps are returning home, to restrict their movements while here.

“I don’t think we should prevent flights from landing in Ireland or ban international travel as it isn’t the approach we’ve taken.

“We’re going to meet again as a Cabinet on Wednesday to discuss international travel and we will be finalising decisions in relation to international travel in a Cabinet meeting next Monday.

Coveney also addressed recent concerns about US flights landing in Ireland.

“We have between 200-250 people a day arriving from the US that’s in the context of about 4,500 people a day arriving into Ireland. The majority of those people are Irish people coming home.

“One of the flights from Dallas which has been the subject of some attention from the media and social media – there were only 16 people on that flight is my understanding,” he said.

On the issue of people arriving in Ireland and not filling out the passenger locator form, the minister said that it’s already a possibility that if people fill out your passenger form incorrectly you will face a punishment.

“If you pretend you’re staying somewhere and you’re not staying there and then your subsequently shown to have deliberately essentially falsified the information on your form then you can be charged and from my recollection, if my recollection is right you can be at risk of being jailed for a short period of time and face a very hefty fine for that,” said Coveney.

“This isn’t simply about the State wanting to know where you are well, that’s important too in the context of contract tracing if that’s needed but it’s also about asking you where you’re staying for 14 days.

“And if you’re lying to us, you’re breaking the law.

“That’s a very clear message that goes with the legislation that underpins the passenger locator form and the obligation that comes with that.

“And I think that perhaps there hasn’t been enough focus on that legal obligation,” added Coveney.


Dr Ronan Glynn told reporters this evening that from a public health point of view, “mandatory quarantine would be a desirable measure”.

He said anyone who has to take a flight… and people do need to travel for a variety of reasons. But where people do have to travel for essential reasons, they know the public health guidance and they know what to do.”

“I don’t think it’s reasonable in the context of a pandemic that could go on for many months to say that we can shut down travel completely. However, from a public health perspective, we want to stop as much, if not all, non-essential travel if at all possible”, he continued.

“From a public health perspective, it’s very clear that the less movement of people you have, whether locally, regionally, nationally or internationally, then the less spread of the disease there will be. That’s just a fact with any infectious disease.”

“From a public health perspective, mandatory quarantine would clearly be a desirable measure. But, there are wider implications and there are wider considerations for government in decision-making around the issue of mandatory quarantine.
“From our perspective, anyone coming into this country should be restricting their movements.”

Legal issues restricting someone’s movement

Coveney again ruled out mandatory quarantine of passengers arriving into Ireland.

“It’s a very difficult thing then to have primary legislation to underpin a requirement to restrict your movement or to self quarantine.

“And the practical enforcement of that I think would be very, very difficult that’s why we’ve chosen to use the passenger locator form as a way of doing that in a secondary way.

On the practicalities of adding additional supports to the contact and tracing of those that do arrive in Ireland, the minister said the government will finalise the plan to have a dedicated call centre contacting passengers on Monday.

He said the State has to move faster than it normally would and there’a a different approach to procurement processes. Coveney added that he was not aware of anyone being punished under the current rules as they stand.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says that anyone coming into Ireland and planning to stay at multiple places is in breach of the law. He says that the “green list” – countries which the government will deem safe to travel to – will be published next Monday.

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Phase 4

Coveney said he was hopeful the government could move ahead with the reopening of the country under Phase 4 next week.

He said the government would take public health advice into consideration when making such decisions “both on international travel as well as on pubs and gatherings, both indoors and outdoors”.

“That is how the previous government and now this govt has approached each of these decisions… I hope we can make some appropriate changes in relation to international travel but we have got to do it with our eyes wide open.

“On international travel, we will update the advice and hopefully a green list every two weeks based on data and bench-marking of countries primarily within the EU, but also outside the EU, on the basis of risk levels,” he added.

Brussels trip 

On whether he is concerns that there will be a public push back to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin travelling to Brussels this week for a European Council meeting, Coveney said Martin will take all precautions necessary.

He said throughout the Covid pandemic, essential workers have been allowed to travel and those people have been essentially exempted from the travel restrictions that have been in place.

“Certainly I think that the Taoiseach travelling to a European Council meeting to try and finalise the budget for Europe for the next seven years, as well as trying to finalise a five billion euro Brexit reserve, if that is not essential work for Ireland, I am not sure what is.

“Of course the Taoiseach will take the appropriate precautions, but I think it would be extraordinary if he chose not to travel in terms of Ireland’s interest to that council meeting,” he concluded.

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