New Transport Minister Eamon Ryan says we cannot seal off the country to Covid-19

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
By Aoife Moore

The new Minister for Transport says we cannot "seal off the country" amid concerns about travel-linked instances of new Covid-19 diagnoses.

A small resurgence in the number of new infections as a result of foreign travel, including from Britain and Sweden, has raised major concerns among health officials.

Green Party leader and Minister Eamon Ryan says without banning people entering the country, the Government's focus will be managing risk.

"But we will have to manage the risk, that's the key thing here, and it is a risk. Look, we're going to be very careful in terms of monitoring Covid as it flares up and act quickly in local areas. I suppose we can all maybe play our part in terms of restricting travel to when it's not necessary."

He said people need to make a judgment call on whether to spend their holidays at home this summer.

"I think that is the clear message because that helps in a variety of ways when we've a fantastic country to go on holiday in. That's part of the stimulus-response, where we're spending our money here at home and also reducing our own health risks."

The minister, who now heads up the new Department for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport, has been briefed on potential plans for air bridges between European countries for foreign travel. The State has been reluctant to publicly promote air bridges to countries who had managed their Covid response similarly to Ireland, despite much of Europe reopening to foreign travel from mid-June.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he would be guided by public health advice: "I'll be meeting with the CMO and Minister for Health to get his assessment of it. We'll have to discuss in a more substantive way the issue of travel, and international travel and the balance that's involved in that and the risk involved and we'd approach it cautiously in terms of public health advice."

He added the government will do what is most effective to get tourism and hospitality back up and running.

"Already in some hotels around the country, bookings are quite significantly up. I'm hearing in certain parts of the West, it's quite difficult to get accommodation," he said. "I think whatever works best and again, we want to work quickly, in terms of getting jobs back and getting people to work.

"Some of the measures on taxation may have a more medium-term impact or a longer-term impact than necessarily the sharp immediate stimulus that's required, so we will look carefully at that."