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Explainer: What does the new 'green list' mean for foreign travel?

It was a long time coming but there’s still plenty of debate out there.

shutterstock_560320546 Monaco is one of the places on the green list. Source: Shutterstock

THE MUCH-PROMISED travel ‘green list’ was published by the government late last night

Government advice remains against non-essential travel, but the green list essentially acknowledges that some travel is happening and that some countries are more safe than others to travel from.

So what effect does the list have? 

As it stood yesterday, people arriving into this country from anywhere abroad were required to restrict their movements for 14 days.;

As it now stands, this remains the case for everywhere except the 15 countries and territories on the green list.

The places on the list are: 

  • Cyprus
  • Malta
  • Finland
  • Norway
  • Italy
  • Hungary
  • Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Slovakia
  • Greece
  • Gibraltar
  • Greenland
  • Monaco
  • San Marino

So to cut through all of the noise, if you’re arriving into Ireland from these countries you can act as if you were just returning from a staycation in this country. 

What about flying to those countries, will I have to self-isolate if I go there?

You’re probably better off doing some of your own specific research before booking a trip, but many of these countries have rules that are similar to Ireland.

For example, like in Ireland, Cyprus requires people travelling into the country to fill out a form before they land. 

Dubbed the Cyprus Flight Pass, the online form is part of authorities’ efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic while allowing some tourist travel.

The form must be filled out online 24 hours before boarding, irrespective of the departure country.

The country allows passengers into the country based on two lists of countries, Category A and Category B. 

Passengers from Category B countries need to demonstrate a negative Covid-19 test from the previous 72 hours before entering the country, while Category A countries do not.

Luckily for Irish tourists, the country is part of Category A and people arriving from here just need to fill out the form. 

Much like Ireland’s ‘green list’, Cyprus has said it will be regularly updating the two lists based on epidemiological data.  

What if I want to go to a ‘green list’ country but have to travel through one that’s not on the list?

According to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, this is fine if you’re just transiting through an airport.

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Some places on the list do not have direct flights to or from Ireland, but Coveney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today that returning via a connection hub does not mean you’ve entered a ‘red list’ country. 

“If you’re transiting through an airport and we’ve checked this with the World Health Organization, our Minister for Health spoke to Mike Ryan, who’s a senior figure in the World Health Organization, and they don’t have a significant concern at all with transit airports,” Coveney said. 

If you’re flying through an airport onto another destination, it’s the destination that you’re heading to or the destination that you originate from that determines whether you are effectively on the so-called green list or not. 

So essentially that means if you’re flying from Greenland via Denmark or from Gibraltar via Spain you will still count as having returned from a green list country.

That would, however, appear to rule out flying to a ‘red list’ country and hopping on a train.

A fact Ryanair sarcastically picked up in relation to Monaco, which doesn’t actually have its own airport.

Will this change mean anything for travel insurance purposes?

On the face of it it would appear that the green list will make a difference but what exactly it means is already up for debate.

One of the ongoing issues surrounding the pandemic and travel has been the rights of consumers and how they interact with government travel advice. 

Now an important question is whether people will be able to avail of travel insurance if they travel to a green list country. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) advice is usually critical in determining if people can have insurance cover while abroad, with people travelling abroad likely left without coverage if they travel against government advice. 

Last night, the official travel advice for the 15 green list countries changed on the DFA’s website, making it clear they do not represent a higher risk than Ireland. 

The new advice changed the status of the countries to ‘normal precautions’ from ‘avoid non-essential travel’. 

pjimage (8) Italy is on the green list and France is not. Source: DFA.ie

Despite this however, Insurance Ireland said earlier this week that the green list “does not equate to a relaxation of the non-essential travel policy”. 

This suggested that insurance companies may take the view that, green list or no green list, Irish tourists may not be covered if they travel abroad for non-essential reasons.

Insurance Ireland was correctly pointing to the fact that the overarching government advice was still to avoid non-essential travel. 

In a statement today, Irish travel insurance provider GetCover.ie called for greater clarification and labelled the advice for green list countries as ‘very conflicting’. 

Asked about the insurance issue, Coveney said that insurance companies will make decisions on the basis of the official travel advice and that the advice has changed in relation to the 15 countries. 

The best advice, however, is probably to check with your own insurance provider before making any decisions.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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