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On a jet plane

Coveney: Holidaying abroad is currently illegal but that 'may change' over the summer

The minister said the EU Green Cert system could be in place by June but that Ireland may not sign up to it at the beginning.

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN Affairs Simon Coveney has said that holidaying abroad is currently illegal but that ‘may change’ over the summer.  

Speaking this morning at the launch of the government’s Be Summer Ready campaign, Coveney spoke at length about the country’s regulations around international travel. 

He said the government is “not in the space now” to change the rules around travelling abroad but that may change in the coming months. 

The European Parliament is set to vote next week on the proposal for Digital Green Certificates– also known as Covid passports. 

The aim of Digital Green Certificates is to allow the return of free movement of people around Europe this summer – by proving that a person has either been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, has a negative test result, or has recovered from Covid-19.

Coveney said that the EU Green Cert system could be in place by June but that Ireland may not sign up to it at the beginning. 

“For now, the message is no non-essential international travel. It’s against the law. And people should not be holidaying away from home. That may change over the summer months, we are part of working towards what’s called the Green Passport,” he said. 

Coveney says that the system is effectively a database of people that would confirm that they have been vaccinated fully and “are therefore in a different risk category “.

It will be up to countries to decide whether they want to buy into that from the start, or at a later point during the summer. I think the green passport system will be in place by the start of June, that’s the plan. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Ireland or the countries will buy into it from day one, that will have to be a decision for government working with our public health team.

Coveney said that “certainly at some stage over the next number of months” there will be a benefit to the Green Cert system.

“That’s still some way off but certainly that’s where this is going,” he said. 

The minister said that all these issues have to be agreed with public health experts but he also stated that there needed to be “consistency in terms of what we’re asking Irish people to do versus what we’re allowing people who may be coming to Ireland for business or for holiday reasons to do.”

He added: 

“Everybody who comes into Ireland is required to quarantine somewhere, whether it’s at home or whether it’s in a government provided hotel. So the message is clear and tough and consistent on international travel for now, but I think there is some good news on the horizon on that but it’ll be some time.”

Asked about the effect of international travel restrictions on the aviation sector, Coveney said the government has had to “prioritise public health advice over everything else”. 

“Even with that, I do think over the summer months we will see a gradual change in relation to the approach on international travel but I certainly wouldn’t be advising anybody to be booking holidays. That’s very much contrary to the current advice,” he said. 

Mandatory hotel quarantine

Health officials are today meeting to discuss the addition of India to the list of countries from which incoming travellers must complete two weeks of hotel quarantine.

The government’s Expert Advisory Group on Travel will look at the status of India, which has seen Covid-19 cases and deaths spiral in recent weeks.

Asked about the potential addition of India to the list, Coveney said that government will listen to the advice of the Expert Group and NPHET before taking a decision, adding that “I don’t think anyone would be surprised” if the advice was to add India.

Adding a country to the MHQ list is a decision taken by the Minister for Health in consultation with the MInister for Finance and the Chief Medical Officer. 

Coveney has previously expressed doubts about adding some countries to the list that have large numbers of Irish people resident there.

Speaking about the wider MHQ system, Coveney said it has been”a very difficult policy to implement.

“There’s a reason why no other country in the EU is doing this, because it’s not easy,” he said.

“I think we will maintain it for now, and we may well add more countries.”

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