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11 nations may figure on green list as government insists 'don't travel'

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A traveller heads for departures at Dublin Airport. Photo: Gerry Mooney

A traveller heads for departures at Dublin Airport. Photo: Gerry Mooney

A traveller heads for departures at Dublin Airport. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Eleven European countries, including major holiday destinations such as Italy and Greece, could be eligible to make the green list of countries even as ministers continue to warn against non-essential foreign travel.

It comes as the Government has been accused of causing confusion with mixed messages over plans for changes to the restrictions on international travel. The green list was expected to be published today, but has now been delayed.

The Government plans to publish a green list of countries with rates of new coronavirus cases similar to or lower than Ireland.

Clarity

People travelling from those countries will not be required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Ireland.

Insurance Ireland last night advised anyone planning on booking a holiday to a green list country to check with their insurer to see if they are covered first. It said: "A green list does not equate to a relaxation of the non-essential travel policy.

"Government advice still remains that only essential travel should be undertaken and we await further clarity on any change to this position."

It comes as 10 more cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed here. There were no new deaths reported yesterday.

Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show that as of last night there are 11 countries which currently have lower rates of Covid-19 cases than the 4.9 people per 100,000 in Ireland. They are Italy, Greece, Slovakia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Estonia, Hungary, Finland and Malta.

Should the green list include countries with slightly higher rates of cases, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark could make the cut too. Government sources last night said decisions on the green list were still being finalised and will "come down to the wire".

But a series of ministers who took to the airwaves yesterday, including Dara Calleary and Michael McGrath, strongly signalled that the official advice will remain not to travel for non-essential purposes.

Mr Calleary told RTE non-essential travel is "still out" while Mr McGrath said he expects this to be the case even after the green list is published.

Public Health expert Professor Gabriel Scally said the situation is "confusing".

"I can understand, there is pressure from the airline industry, from international tourist interests to open things up. But I would prefer to take the safe road that keeps the virus at bay and keeps it out of the country," he said.

Sinn Fein TD Louise O'Reilly claimed it was "absolutely unacceptable" that on the one hand the Government is saying that no non-essential travel should be undertaken while on the other publishing a green list.

Labour TD Duncan Smith said the clear public health advice is still to avoid travel but he suggested "many people will take the publication of the list as permission to travel to those locations".

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan denied the green list will send out a signal that they are destinations for people to go on holiday. He said the recommendation was for people to spend their holidays at home this summer and autumn.

Mr Ryan also denied there was mixed messages saying: "It's saying don't travel unless you have to."

Benefit

Separately, Ms O'Reilly criticised proposals for a "staycation subsidy" set to be included in the Government's July stimulus package to allow families to reclaim a portion of their hotel or restaurant bill.

It was reported at the weekend that the proposal is emerging as the favoured way to boost the tourism industry in this week's July stimulus package.

Ms O'Reilly told The Week in Politics it would "disproportionately benefit people who have money in the back pocket and who can go out and spend" over people who don't.

She argued a voucher scheme as proposed by Sinn Fein would "benefit everybody".

She said "a voucher system where people can maybe bring their kids out for an ice-cream... can also start to get money moving in the economy."