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Green list will be 'very short' but Greece and Cyprus likely to feature

The US has already been ruled out, so what countries might make the cut?

Paphos, Cyprus
Paphos, Cyprus
Image: John Short

IRELAND’S GREEN LIST will be worked on right up until Sunday evening, but is due to be published on Monday.

The much-talked about list will detail the countries that Irish people can travel to without having to restrict their movements for 14 days afterwards when they return to Ireland.

For countries that are not on the green list, there should be no non-essential travel and travellers should restrict their movements for 14 days after returning.

The green list and possible ‘air bridge’ agreements for Ireland have been talked about since the end of May.

In early June, TheJournal.ie reported that based on the rate of the virus, discussions were taking place about deals being struck with with France, Portugal, Germany, and perhaps Greece and some Eastern European countries.

The Covid situation is ever-changing, of course, with the rate of cases in a number of these countries on the rise. This will result in some of the nations orignally mooted not making the list.

The green list was first due by 9 July, but it was then pushed out to 20 July.

Yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney provided some clarity as to which countries might make the cut, stating that the US will not feature on the list, and it is “unlikely” Great Britain will either. 

“We can put people on a green list that we regard as representing no higher risk than Ireland represents.

“In other words, travelling to one of these countries wouldn’t be any different to travelling to Kerry, Connemara or Donegal for your holidays,” said Coveney.

So, what countries might feature? 

A number of ministers told this publication that Taoiseach Michéal Martin is keeping the draft list “very tight”, with one stating: “We haven’t seen sight of it.”

One thing is for sure though, the list will not be a long one.

It will be “very short” said a number of senior government sources.

“Very few countries have the virus incidence as low as us,” said one minister, who added that the list “is a start and creates a framework for normal international travel to resume”. 

Coveney did, yesterday, provide some insight into how the government will determine which countries make it onto the list. 

He said the EU looks at the number of Covid cases per 100,000 over a 14-day period, and Ireland will do the same when drafting and reviewing the green list.

At the moment, Ireland’s rate is around 4.3. Two weeks ago, Ireland was at 2.5, while a month ago it was above 4, so it changes constantly, which is why the list will be reviewed every fortnight.

Cases per 100,000

The latest update for the EU/EEA and the UK, as of 17 July, shows that Ireland is at 4.3. 

The countries around a similar rate, and therefore which could make it onto the green list are: 

  • Cyprus 3.7
  • Greece 4.5
  • Italy 4.6
  • Slovakia 4.6

Countries that are lower than or around the 4 mark are possibilities, in other words.

It is envisaged the short list will include countries that have a similar disease profile to Ireland, and won’t necessarily include countries that are doing better than us, as nations with a lower rate than Ireland may not want Irish tourists entering their country.

These include:

  • Norway 2.2
  • Hungary 1.2
  • Latvia 3.0
  • Malta 0.6
  • Lithuania 2.8
  • Estonia 2.0
  • Finland 0.9

There has been speculation that Greece and Cyprus might end up being the summer destination spots for those Irish holidaymakers that do choose to travel this year. The Canary Islands is also a possibility for the list with the rate standing at 3.2.

It also depends whether the listed countries want to accept Irish tourists to their country. Other information taken into account will be how each country counts their cases, their testing and tracing efforts and whether the cases are rising in any one country.

Off the list

Spain, which has a 17.7 rate, and Portugal, which has a 48.5 rate, will not be on the list.

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However, sources state that it is important the public does not receive further mixed messaging around travel.

In recent days there have been concerns in some government circles about the messaging surrounding travel, particularly the advice being pushed by the new government and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) that the advice against all non-essential travel remains, despite a green list being published next week.

Sources state the government’s message once the green list is published must be clear: that people can travel to countries on the green list – but they must exercise a high level of caution. 

For countries that are not on the green list, the message must be that there should be no non-essential travel and that people returning must restrict their movements.

The thinking within Cabinet is that we will be living with the virus for some time to come, maybe years, and therefore a framework for restoring some level of normal travel will need to be formulated.

It is understood that the initial travel steps by government will be very cautious – but that such restrictive measures cannot continue forever. It is envisaged that more countries will be added to the green list in the months ahead. 

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