Michael O'Leary: Government’s quarantine plans 'simply political game playing'

Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O'Leary has described the government’s plans to quarantine people arriving into Ireland for 14 days as “simply political game playing”.

In interviews on Newstalk Breakfast and RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr O’Leary said that a quarantine regime where people can leave the airport and get on public transport before they commence their 14 day quarantine would be ineffective.

“Ireland is introducing far more restrictive travel restrictions at a time when the rest of Europe is opening up,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

“It’s time for Ireland to get moving. It’s time to get back flying, using face masks,” he added on Morning Ireland.

Having the travel restrictions for people arriving at airports and ports when people could cross the border from Northern Ireland was not a quarantine, it was “simply political game playing.”

Once a person who had arrived at the airport got on a bus the infection would spread if they had the virus, he added.

Ireland had performed better than the rest of Europe in tackling Covid-19 and yet it still had the most restrictive quarantine regulations, he said.

Mr O’Leary said that the airline was following the advice of the European Centre for Disease Control and the European Safety Agency which emphasised the importance of face masks, temperature controls and hand sanitizer.

China was already back moving again, he said and had only seven new cases of Covid-19 yesterday. Spain and Italy had reopened despite both countries having “a worse record” than Ireland, he said.

“If the government made more liberal use of face masks we could go back to work,” he said on Morning Ireland.

Mr O’Leary told Newstalk Breakfast that he was calling for three measures – for the 14-day quarantine to be removed; for face masks to be introduced for everyone which could reduce the two metres social distance requirement to one metre. He also said that hairdressers should be able to reopen with staff and customers wearing face masks.

We should follow Italy and Spain who have managed Covid well. Let’s speed up. We have to get parts of the economy open.

The government needs to explain why Ireland, with the best record on handling the virus, is imposing the most stringent lockdown of any European country, he said.

On RTÉ Mr O’Leary added that it will take between three to six months for refunds to be made to customers whose flights were cancelled.

He said that €400million has already been refunded which was one-third of what is owed to customers. “We are working our way through the back log.”