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Explainer: There are now zero countries on the Green List - so how did that happen?

The list has had a controversial history and its days are now numbered.

017 Dublin Airport Dublin Airport in July. Source: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

IRELAND’S FAMOUS GREEN List was updated again this afternoon, with no countries on the latest iteration

The move from four countries to zero (goodbye Lichtenstein) actually applies from Monday, so if you know someone flying in from Helsinki they can still arrive into Ireland until then without any change to their travel plans. 

From Monday on though, everyone arriving into this country will be asked to restrict their movements for 14 days. The Green List was essentially a list of countries that this didn’t apply to. 

The list was part of Ireland’s efforts to regulate international travel after a virtual Covid-19 shutdown earlier this year. 

The list has had a controversial history, with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar raising a few eyebrows over the summer by questioning its usefulness before it even came in. 

Transport Minister Éamon Ryan yesterday admitted that the Green List was “not working” , adding that Ireland needed to concentrate on aligning itself with a proposed EU-wide plan.

In the past three weeks, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has been updating the list on a weekly basis.

Initially the list was to be updated every two weeks, but as the epidemiological situation worsened over August and September, and Ireland’s incidence rate was higher than several other EU countries, it didn’t change for a month. 

When it was first published, the Green List had 15 countries on it but it has been shrinking ever since. Its trajectory has gone like this: 15, 10, 7, 4 and 0. 

Less than zero

indidence Source: ECDC

Today’s empty Green List isn’t actually a surprise, with Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson saying yesterday that Lichtenstein would be cut along with the three EU member states. 

The reason the countries have been cut is because their Covid-19 rates are now higher than what is allowable for the list. 

How did a country qualify to get on the Green List?

When the Green List was instituted, the DFA outlined that countries would make the list only if they had Covid-19 incidence rates of less than 25 per 100,000 over the past 14 days, as per the European Centre for Disease control

When the Green List began that was a reasonable number, but as Europe struggled with a second wave of Covid-19 it quickly became out of date. 

For example, at the beginning of July when the Green List was being considered Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate was just 2.9, it is now at 120.5. On the same timescale, the UK has moved from 22.7 to the current level of 201.9. 

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Therefore, in short, the Green List as it was envisaged is now out of date, a fact that has already been acknowledged by government. 

“Just about every country we are connected to is outside the parameters of what would apply,” the Transport Minister said yesterday. 

eu list What the proposed EU-wide travel list would currently look like.

The question now turns to the proposed EU-wide travel policy that is set to be agreed by the General Affairs Council on Tuesday. 

As per the proposals, an EU country would only fail to make the EU’s safe travel list if a country’s incidence rate was both above 50 per 100,000 and the positivity rate was above 3%.

Ireland ultimately hopes to sign up this policy but faces challenges in doing so, including introducing a testing programme at airports and securing the buy in of health authorities. 

Until then though, it looks as though the Green List’s days are numbered.  

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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