International holidays and other non-essential trips abroad will resume in “months rather than weeks,” according to the Minister for Transport.
Eamon Ryan told both Newstalk Breakfast and RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that he did not want to speculate on exact dates, as he did not want to raise expectations and then dash hopes.
The Minister said he could see a case where Irish citizens with a vaccine certificate could travel for non-essential reasons such as holidays, but that would be months away.
He wanted to avoid a “stop-start” scenario for airlines, fearing the Government could commit to resuming international travel too early before another lockdown.
“We don’t want to say ‘you can start this date’ and people are going to book for it and then you might have another wave [of Covid-19] and it stops again,” he said.
“I think we’re better on getting this gradual — slowly but surely and steadily — transition out of the Covid arrangements we’re in and make sure what we put in place then is on a really stable basis.”
Mr Ryan said that he would be meeting with airlines later today to discuss the issue.
The return to normality would be a step-by-step process, Mr Ryan said. “We're still not out of the woods yet.”
It follows statements from the Taoiseach yesterday, where he ruled out international travel before June.
The Government's current focus is on a further easing of domestic restrictions in May, with the reopening of hairdressers, non-essential retail and religious services to be prioritised following the return of some outdoor activities next week.
On Wednesday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs hinted at the possibility of allowing non-essential international travel in the coming months, but warned any change in advice would be gradual.
Simon Coveney said there is "good news on the horizon" as international travel restrictions may ease over the summer.
The European Commission is working on a green passport scheme which will make it easier for vaccinated people to travel within the EU, and the Irish Government are hoping to join the initiative, Mr Coveney said.
The system is expected to be in place from June, at which time the Government and health officials will have to assess whether or not the easing of international travel restrictions poses too great a risk to the epidemiological situation here.
However, the message for the moment remains that all but essential journeys should be avoided.