Taoiseach fears international travel will reignite spread of coronavirus

Taoiseach Micheál Martin says there are fears that international travel will cause a resurgence in coronavirus and reiterated advice that people should not travel overseas.

The Cabinet is meeting on Monday to discuss the restrictions, although a “green list” of countries where it is safe to travel to and from without having to quarantine is not expected to be published until July 20.

Mr Martin said: “The travel advisory for the last while had been strong – that it’s not advisable to travel overseas. We have to put public health first. That is the overarching issue.

“Today the Cabinet will meet and make a formal decision on travel. We had a Cabinet sub-committee on Covid on Friday. The public health advice is extremely cautious now in relation to opening up for travel.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The Cabinet is meeting to discusss the restrictions (Julien Behal/PA)</figcaption>
The Cabinet is meeting to discusss the restrictions (Julien Behal/PA)

Asked about when the Government will publish a list of “green” countries where it will be safe for Irish people to travel, Mr Martin said the matter was under constant review because the situation is changing very rapidly.

He said the Government is drawing up the list of countries, but noted there are countries where there are high numbers of cases.

“We have countries that would have made the safe list two weeks ago wouldn’t make it today, so the overarching objective is to suppress the virus and keep it down. There is a fear international travel could reignite the virus,” he told Cork’s 96FM.

Meanwhile, Professor Kingston Mills said asking people travelling into Ireland from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days is “not working”.

That restriction was supposed to be lifted on Thursday of this week, but it is now expected to be extended until July 20 and then reviewed every two weeks thereafter.

Prof Mills, professor of experimental immunology and head of the Centre for the Study of Immunology at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute in Dublin, said Ireland has done well in suppressing the spread of coronavirus but allowing unrestricted travel into the country would unravel this.

“We’re one of the countries with the lowest levels of the virus in Europe and we’re an island. We have a chance to do even better than we have done in terms of completely eliminating the virus and preventing any further surges of the virus,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“The idea of non-mandatory self isolation is not really working as I understand there are a significant amount of people not self-isolating or they are not being followed up.”

“People are effectively ignoring the advice from Government not to travel because you only have to look at the number of flights going in and out of Dublin to see that.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>People arriving in Ireland are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days (Brian Lawless/PA)</figcaption>
People arriving in Ireland are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days (Brian Lawless/PA)

Prof Mills said there are some European countries that may be safe to travel in and out from but he noted there are cities in the US where there are high numbers of cases.

“There’s flights coming into Ireland from places like Chicago where they have a significant number of cases. If you have unrestricted flights coming in and people are not self isolating when they get here, then you are asking for trouble in terms of the virus resurging.”