Harris 'mismanaging' return to economic activity, says Ryanair

Michael O'Leary speaking at a Ryanair press conference in 2017. Picture: Press Association

Health Minister Simon Harris is "mismanaging" Ireland's return to economic activity, according to Ryanair.

It is the latest step in the row between health officials and the airline, which plans to operate 1,000 flights per day from July 1 despite recommendations for passengers arriving into Ireland to self-isolate for 14 days.

The budget airline has written to Mr Harris to once again call for the removal of this requirement. It said the "form filling" questionnaire has "no scientific or medical efficacy" but is deterring European visitors from booking holidays in Ireland in July and August.

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary has been very vocal in his opposition to quarantine measures in Ireland and the UK, claiming they are ineffective and unenforceable.

Protocols published by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) advise airline passengers to maintain physical distance, observe enhanced hygiene processes such as hand-washing, and wear face coverings in airports and aircrafts. They do not recommend a quarantine for passengers after they travel.

A spokesperson for Ryanair said the quarantine is undermining Ireland's economic recovery.

"Thousands of Irish families are booking holidays in Portugal, Spain and Italy during July and August," they said.

"However, Ireland’s hotels, tour operators, visitor attractions and restaurants are being unnecessarily damaged by this useless and ineffective visitor “quarantine”, which will deter European visitors during the peak travel months.

"Having managed the Covid-19 lockdown well, it is deeply regrettable that NPHET continues to mismanage the return to normality by being too cautious, and not following the well-established scientific advice being implemented by the rest of Europe."

The airline called on Minister Harris to "scrap Ireland's useless and ineffective visitor quarantine"  and replace it with mandatory use of face masks on all forms of public transport and rigorous hand hygiene.

"If NPHET are not willing to make these sensible and scientifically based decisions, then Minister Harris and his Government should," they said.

Responding to an earlier letter from Mr O'Leary, Mr Harris said "100% of non-exempt passengers" have filled out passenger locator forms. But, in his latest letter to the Minister, Mr O'Leary said there is no way of verifying the information provided and he claims "there is no follow up" phone call or email.

Mr Harris' letter, dated June 9, says the government will continuously review its position and the public health advice to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Ireland will be considered again on June 18.

Ryanair published the letters on the same day it started legal action in the UK to overturn their quarantine policy. Ryanair, British Airways and EasyJet say the UK's quarantine is deferring bookings at a time when other European countries are opening up.

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