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Dublin Airport in July. Sasko Lazarov/
Foreign Travel

Green List: Ryanair and Aer Lingus push for Ireland to join EU traffic light system but minister says it will 'take time'

Eamon Ryan tol the Oireachtas Transport Committee that the Green LIst was ‘not working’.

TRANSPORT MINISTER EAMON Ryan has said the current travel Green List is “not working” but that it “could period of time” for the EU-wide travel policy to be implemented. 

Ryan was speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport this morning, with the CEOs of Ryanair and Aer Lingus also giving evidence. 

Ireland’s Green List currently has just four countries on it, with Ryan saying that it is no longer fit for purpose. 

“The  current Green List is not working because just about every country we are connected to is outside the parameters of what would apply,” he said. 

Even the much higher parameters that we applied on 8 September, which were a multiple of what were applied early in July are no longer valid. So it is not working and we do have to change our approach.

An EU-wide policy, which is to be agreed upon by the EU Council of Ministers on 13 October, will use a traffic light system to mark countries as green, orange, or red depending on their rate of Covid-19 cases.

It’s envisaged that this plan would use two metrics to judge whether people can travel to a specific county, 14-day incidence rates per 100,000 people and test positivity rates. 

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%. 

If the traffic light system were to be introduced today, 16 different countries would be on the list. 

Speaking today, however, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that while the plan may be agreed next week it may take “some time” for countries to adopt it. 

It is critical we get firstly the EU-wide agreement on the broad approach. And within that context, that we get agreement with health authorities here and with other governments, including the likes of the UK government, who are key player because of the number of passengers we have traveling to and from the UK on ferries as well as on air.

“There will be a period of time that it will take for us to put the enforcement measures in place, we have to be straight about that,” Ryan said. 

eu list The 16 countries that would make the EU's travel list.

(Click here to view larger image)

Speaking following the minister’s comments, the CEOs of both Aer Lingus and Ryanair encouraged the government not to waste time in adopting the EU approach. 

“I would encourage the committee to move with speed to adopt this framework,” Aer Lingus CEO Seán Doyle said. 

And I must say I am concerned that we will get to 13 October nowhere near close to full adoption, based on the commentary that we just heard in the previous session. 

Ryanair’s CEO Eddie Wilson made similar comments:  “The government needs to do two things, adopt the traffic light system and champion it next week at the meeting on 13 October. And if they can’t get agreement, they should actually implement the system today.”

Airports and testing

DAA CEO Dalton Philips also spoke at the committee in favour of the EU proposals, adding that they need to be be accompanied by testing protocols for high-risk ‘red list’ regions, “discarding blunt travel restrictions and quarantines”, Philips said.

“The proposed framework has been supported by the European Centre for Disease Control and by airlines, airports, member associations and tourism bodies right across Europe,” he said. 

To facilitate the adoption of the EU framework, DAA has undertaken significant research and engaged with the market and government agencies. We have developed proposals to facilitate mobilising pre-departure PCR testing at Dublin/Cork airports by mid-October with capability to deliver up to 15,000 tests per day as business recovers, without impacting the public health system.

Speaking about testing, Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said that PCR testing is the “gold standard” but that the aviation sector is looking for something ‘more rapid’.

She noted that the aviation sector has pushed for antigen testing but that the WHO doesn’t see it as “suitable”. 

The issue was also raised in the Dáil today by Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD, who said that Ireland would be “completely unprepared” to adopt the traffic light system due to issues around testing at airports. 

“We would be completely unprepared in terms of European requirements or standards for testing at our airports, or for any kind of quarantining,” she said.

“At the moment, there is no system in place. There are no plans underway to address this. And that’s why I’m saying we need a strategy to minimize the virus. Unless you have some kind of safeguards at ports and airports you’re just wasting your time really.”

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