Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has triggered surprise by suggesting that the long-awaited 'green list' on safe countries to visit might be scrapped, if the blueprint for travel throws up mixed messages.
His comments come as the Cabinet tonight is expected to debate the list, with possibly as many as 12 countries being deemed safe for travellers to visit.
But, there is growing confusion and disagreement over what purpose the green list will serve if the continued advice is to avoid non-essential travel and not leave Irish shores.
Mr Varadkar's office responded to the confusion. A spokesperson said, "The Tánaiste believes strongly that it's wrong to send out mixed messages about international travel. The Tánaiste believes there should be a green list as was previously agreed by the Government.
“But, if the travel advice for countries on the green list isn't different to advice for other countries, then we would be better off not having a green list at all.”
The remarks have ramped up confusion over the list, publication of which has already been delayed this week.
Labour leader Alan Kelly told the Dáil that the travel advice now as a “joke”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Cabinet would discuss the issue later today.
Amid calls for rigorous testing of arrivals at airports, he also noted National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) had said it was not in favour of a testing regime at airports.
The benefit of the list is that anyone who travels to the countries will not need to self-isolate for two weeks when returning home. Equally, travellers arriving from them don't have to quarantine.
It is strongly expected that Norway, Finland, Lithuania and Estonia will be on the list as will Cyprus, Malta, and Hungary. But Portugal, Spain, France, the UK and the US, all which have higher rates of the virus, will not make the list.
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said over the weekend that the table of countries with low Covid-19 rates should not be treated as a holiday list. The formal advice was still to stay and at home and holiday, said the Green leader.