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Leo Varadkar

Irish government aiming to allow people to travel abroad to visit loved ones for Christmas

Leo Varadkar told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that Ireland may lose travel connectivity “for up to 4 years” if “strict” travel rules are not relaxed.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said that Irish government would like for people to be able to travel abroad to visit loved ones for Christmas, as it discussed the Irish government’s plans to change air travel requirements.

He said that they would also like for people to travel for work purposes, as well as sports teams to be permitted to travel.

Speaking on Newstalk and Morning Ireland, Varadkar said that “probably only Iceland and Hungary” have rules that are stricter than Ireland’s; adding that if we’re serious about living with the virus long-term, that means allowing more air travel through giving more travel options. 

He said that air travel advice would be updated as part of the government’s new Covid-19 roadmap to be published next week, and that work, sports and visiting relatives are among the options being considered.

Varadkar also said that rapid testing, which would produce a result within a few minutes, or opting into an initiative by the European Commission, which involves an EU-wide map with green, amber and red areas, will also be considered.

This comes after Ryanair told staff in Cork and Shannon airports that the airline may have to close these bases unless the government eases its quarantine restrictions on people entering the country from abroad.

Currently, Ireland requires every non-Green List country to restrict their movements for 14 days upon arrival in Ireland, in an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Varadkar said that although travel is important, as the virus came into Ireland “probably through the US and Spain”, there is a “risk” of medium-term loss to Ireland’s international visitors due to Ireland’s “very strict rules” around travel.

There is a risk that if we lose connectivity now we may lose it for good – or at least, not just until next year, but for three or four years.

Travel within Europe is about 40% of what it was before the Covid-19 pandemic, Varadkar said – but in Ireland, it’s around 5% or 10% of what it once was.

“Aviation is a huge industry for Ireland, we’re an island nation, we depend on connectivity for business.”

NPHET is to meet tomorrow, and Cabinet is to meet next Tuesday.

It comes as The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) is calling on the government to provide supports for travel agents who are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Association has supported an official representative group of travel agents for handing in a petition to the Dáil today, as this demonstrates the concerns of travel agents and consumers alike regarding the future of Irish travel.

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