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US won't be on travel green list and UK 'unlikely' to make the cut, confirms Coveney

The green list will have countries on it which pose no higher risk than travelling in Ireland represents.

The green list will be reviewed every two weeks.
The green list will be reviewed every two weeks.
Image: Sam Boal

THE UNITED STATES will not be on the ‘green list’ which is due to be published on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has confirmed.

The UK is also “unlikely” to be on the list of countries the government deems safe for Irish people to travel to.

Non-essential travel is still not recommended, however the minister said it is not illegal to travel abroad.

The list of possible countries is yet to be finalised and is currently being drawn up ahead of next week.

Coveney told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny that the list means people arriving into Ireland from the countries on the list won’t be asked to self-quarantine or restrict their movements for 14 days.

He confirmed the US won’t be on the list. There’s “no question” that will be the case, he said, adding: “It won’t be.”

He said: “I think it’s very unlikely our closest neighbour either will be under that threshold that we set.

“That’s really unfortunate, because the two countries we would like to be opening up to in terms of international travel are the UK and US, given the integration between our economy and those two countries.”

It should be noted that travel from Northern Ireland is currently permitted.

The minister said: “Then 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,” he said.

“This is not on the basis of politics – it’s on the basis of epidemiological data and numbers, so we can compare Ireland to other countries,” he said.

In early June, TheJournal.ie reported that senior sources in government said there is a “sensitivity issue” in how to handle any air bridge list that might exclude Britain.

Much criticism has been leveled at Britain and how it handled the coronavirus outbreak. 

Due to the high number of cases across the Irish sea, “the last thing we need is British tourists flocking here or for our own citizens to travel over there”, as one minister stated.

However, there are concerns about how the government would handle the matter, whereby Ireland could have air bridge deals with countries outside the Common Travel Area, and not with Britain.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also spoke about his concerns about the virus being “re-imported” by British tourists.

Coveney said the government wants to be clear about how it will determine who makes the cut, stating that they will be looking at data such as number of cases per 100,000 people when deciding the list. 

Yesterday, the Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) do not have a role in drawing up the  list.

“We are also looking at changing protocols in airports,” said Coveney, stating that the government would be working with airports to ensure there is a much more visible presence informing people of their obligations when they come to Ireland. 

This was something flagged by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin last week.

Coveney added that they are looking at increasing safety measures in airports, including having testing available for passengers that arrive into Ireland.

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He reiterated that the advice from government is “still not to travel abroad”.

When asked about the number of people being checked up on when arriving in Ireland, who fill out the passenger locator form, Coveney said the latest figure is 63% – but he said that resources were being ramped up in that area.

On tourists arriving into Ireland, the minister said the message is: “Ireland is not open for a normal holiday.”

This messaging is “dramatically reducing international travel” into the country, he said.

He stressed that the number of people arriving here from the US is still low – less than 5% of what it usually is.

“As you would have heard on many media outlets, when they’re interviewed in the airport they understand they are expected to quarantine for 14 days – and the vast majority are planning for that.”

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