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Leo tells public to 'hold firm' despite O'Leary demands

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar highlighted comments by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary as he warned against calls to unlock coronavirus restrictions before it's safe to do so.

Mr Varadkar urged the public to "hold firm" on the current coronavirus restrictions until they're due to be assessed in the first week of June.

Mr O'Leary told RTE that the 14-day quarantine regulation for passengers coming to Ireland has "no basis in health measures and no basis in science".

He also said people can fly "in perfect safety" and this was "fully supported" by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Safety Agency (ESA).

Restrictions

Mr Varadkar raised his remarks in the Dail without naming the airline boss directly, when he expressed concern about the public engaging in anticipatory behaviour before restrictions ease.

He said a form of this is people "looking for us to unlock things in some cases perhaps before we're sure it's safe to do so. I heard a call from a prominent person this morning saying that flying was entirely safe, for example."

"I think we have to continue to base our decisions on evidence."

Last night, Ryanair said that if Mr Varadkar and others who raised concerns over Mr O'Leary's comments are looking for "expert evidence that it is safe to return to flying" in the EU "all they need do is read the guidelines published on May 20 by ESA and the ECDC which recommend face masks and other measures to assure the safety of air travel".

A statement added that the guidelines "make no mention of ineffective quarantines as mistakenly introduced by the Irish Government last weekend while the rest of Europe was abolishing quarantine".

Ryanair said it is returning to flying from July 1, with more than 1,000 daily flights from Ireland to European destinations.

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Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary

REUTERS

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary

Separately, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has criticised coronavirus limits on how far people can travel from their home. He raised claims that decisions on easing restrictions are being delayed, rather than taken as soon as they're justified.

At present there's a 5km limit on how far people are allowed to travel for exercise.

Mr Martin said that there's no remaining "serious justification" for this.

"The public health concern is how people behave around others - not how far they are from their home," he said.

He said research shows it may be forcing people in urban areas into more crowded situations.

Travel is to be allowed up to 20km from an individual's home in phase two of the Government's roadmap due to begin on June 8.

Mr Martin said he doesn't see any logic or scientific basis for this either.