Now is not the time for tourists to travel to Ireland for their holiday: Coveney

Now is not the time for tourists to travel to Ireland for their holiday: Coveney
Coronavirus – Thu May 28, 2020

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said visitors should not come into Ireland unless they restrict their movements for 14 days.

Mr Coveney said the Government is still warning against all non-essential travel, but that a green list of countries – where it will be safe to fly to and from – will be published by the Government next week.

Speaking at a post-cabinet briefing in Dublin on Monday, he said: “People should not be coming to Ireland if they can’t restrict their movements for 14 days when they come here.

"This is not a time for normal holidays for tourists coming from abroad to Ireland. 

We have been very clear on that.

“There was certainly some evidence over the weekend that there were tourists in Ireland who said that they weren’t self-quarantining or restricting movement, and that has created a concern across the tourism industry.

“Irish people who are holidaying in counties like Kerry want to know they can go and holiday with their family safely. We are considering, as a government, the measures we can take to improve communications, to improve protocols in our airports, to ensure that the passenger locator form that passengers who come into Ireland fill out that we can move it online.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney (Julien Behal/PA)

He added: “I don’t think we should prevent flights from landing in Ireland or ban international travel. You could argue Ireland has the most restrictive system in the EU right now in terms of international travel.”

Ireland’s acting chief medical officer said mandatory quarantine for travellers arriving into Ireland from abroad would be “desirable”, but that it is up to the Government.

Speaking at a Department of Health press briefing on Monday, Dr Ronan Glynn said: “From a public health perspective, mandatory quarantine would clearly be a desirable measure but there are wider implications and wider considerations for Government in decision making around the issue of mandatory quarantine.

“From our perspective, anyone coming into the country should be coming into this country should be restricting their movements.

“I don’t think it is reasonable in the context of a pandemic that could go on for several months to say we can shut down travel completely. From a public health perspective, we want to stop as much if not all non-essential travel if at all possible.

“If there is a small number of countries identified that has a similar profile in terms of the virus to ourselves, then from a public health perspective we wouldn’t be concerned about that small list of countries.

No new coronavirus-related death have been reported in Ireland on Monday, leaving the total at 1,746, the National Public Health Emergency Team said.

As of midnight on July 12, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has been notified of 11 confirmed cases of Covid-19. There is now a total of 25,639 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

Dr Glynn said the countries or regions associated with imported case to Ireland are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Portugal, Quatar, Sudan, Sweden, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates the United Kingdom and the United States.

Elsewhere, concerns were raised about the enforcement of face mask regulations.

It is now compulsory to wear masks on public transport, except in specific circumstances.

The decision comes as Ireland’s coronavirus reproductive number increased to one and more cases linked to travel have been imported.

People who refuse to wear a face mask could face fines of up to 2,500 euro and a possible jail sentence of six months.

Drivers can request a passenger to wear a face covering, and can refuse entry on to public transport, or can request the passenger to leave.

People exiting Heuston station in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Under new rules brought into force on Monday, gardai can be called to enforce if someone fails to wear a face covering.

Circumstances where it is an exception to wear a face mask include those who cannot put one on, wear or remove a face covering because of any physical or mental illness, impairment or disability, those who need to communicate with another person who has difficulties communicating and those who need to remove the face covering to take medication.

Union representatives, however, have raised concerns about the legislation.

National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O’Leary claimed that no guidance has been issued to transport staff.

“In relation to our members, we will not be policing and we will not be enforcing this legislation,” he told RTE.

“It’s not our role to do it. A bus driver’s job is to drive the bus, not to police the laws of the land.

“What’s missing here is the lack of consultation between us in the front line and our members, and the people who make these laws and the people who make the decisions, particularly the National Transport Authority (NTA).”

A man wearing a protective face mask on a bus in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has said the wearing of face masks at airports should be mandatory.

There is huge public concern at the arrival into Ireland of visitors from the United States, and the total lack of enforcement of the 14-day mandatory quarantine period

Duncan Smith, Labour

The party’s spokesman for transport Darren O’Rourke called for the Government to produce a “red list” of countries that would enforce 14-day quarantine for people travelling from the area – and that the US should be included on the “red list”.

Mr O’Rourke added: “We are in a situation where it’s left to people working in the tourism industry to essentially police the 14-day quarantine. We believe that situation is completely unsatisfactory.”

The TD said those travelling from the red-listed countries should be put into a mandatory 14-day isolation.

“I think the US should be on the red list given the Covid-19 profile but we need to discuss what it means to be on the red list,” he added.

Labour transport spokesman Duncan Smith called for the Government to suspend flights from the US and other Covid-19 hotspots until there is mandatory testing at airports for overseas visitors.

Mr Smith said: “The current rules are unworkable and unenforceable, and the public are rightly upset about this. We are the only EU country allowing visitors from the US at the moment.”

He said the only requirement for visitors is to fill in a passenger locator form, which “simply isn’t enough”.

He added: “The line from the Government that they will tighten the rules is not sustainable when our current measures are unenforceable and the risk is already here.”

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up