Micheál Martin criticised for 'cack-handed' approach to travel guidelines

Micheál Martin criticised for 'cack-handed' approach to travel guidelines
Although the green list has been announced,the formal advice is still not to leave the country and instead to holiday at home.Picture : Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has faced charges of being "cack-handed" and causing public confusion as he and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald clashed over new international travel guidelines.

The Government's 'green list' of 15 countries deemed safest to travel to has triggered accusations of being at odds with top advice from health chiefs.

The list was agreed by the Cabinet late on Tuesday night. People who travel to one of the 15 countries are being told to only observe 'normal precautions', and those arriving home from there will not have to self-isolate.

But the formal advice is still not to leave the country and to holiday at home instead.

This, in turn, has drawn claims that the plan is contradictory and only adds to issues for consumers, airlines, and travel agents.

Ms McDonald clashed with Mr Martin in the Dáil, saying: “There is complete public confusion and lack of public confidence in the Government’s whole approach, which has been marked as cack-handed and frankly operating on a wing and a prayer. Yesterday the Taoiseach was at odds with the Tánaiste, and the confusion between the two leaders hardly adds to public confidence. Instead of managing the risks that we clearly face, he has now pursued a reckless policy with virtually no checks and balances."   

But Mr Martin stood over the new guidelines, reiterating the overall advice and saying: “I am clear that the safest thing to do is not to travel. That is the clear message. We are saying to people to holiday at home this year.  We have, in respect of those 15 countries, applied the normal precautions appellation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which basically means when they return home they will not have to restrict their movements.” 

At a health briefing yesterday, the HSE confirmed Ireland has 5.6 cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks. Countries with lower levels include Malta (1.01), Finland (1.18), Norway (1.84), Cyprus (3.88), Slovakia (3.94), Greece (4.2) and Italy (4.65) and have therefore been included on the green list.

However, other popular holiday spots and countries have much higher rates for the same period and have been left off the table.

These include France (12.56), Spain (27.8), Portugal (45.17), UK (14.41) and Turkey (16.74) while the US recorded 270 cases per 100,000 population.

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