Simon Coveney: Message from government is clear, safest thing to do is not to holiday abroad 3 weeks ago

Simon Coveney: Message from government is clear, safest thing to do is not to holiday abroad

“Does this list make any sense, how does someone go to Gibraltar without passing through Spain?”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney says the government is continuing to urge Irish people not to holiday abroad despite the long-awaited publication of the government ‘green list’ on Tuesday night.

A list of 15 countries to which Covid-19 travel restrictions do not apply was published on Tuesday, consisting of Malta, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece, Greenland, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino.

Anyone travelling to Ireland from these countries is advised to take normal precautions, and will not face a 14-day quarantine period upon their return.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on Wednesday, Coveney said that while government is still advising people not to travel abroad for non-essential reasons, the list was published out of an obligation to the tens of thousands of people leaving the country on a weekly basis.

“The message from government is still clear, that the safest thing to do is not to take your holidays abroad, to stay at home, look after your family, spend your money at home and holiday at home,” Coveney said.

“But we know also that about 50,000 people a week are leaving the country and I have an obligation as Minister for Foreign Affairs to give them guidance on the basis of risk that is attached to that travel.”

The criteria for countries on the green list is based on data from the European Centre of Disease Control. All countries on the list are considered to be at the same level of risk or less than Ireland, based on the number of cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population.

As of Tuesday (21 July), all of the countries on the list had a lower number of cases per 100,000 people than Ireland (4.9 cases per 100,000) in the last 14 days.

Asked if the list made any sense, particularly in the cases of Gibraltar and Monaco, which are enclaved in Spain and France respectively, two countries which are not on the list, Coveney replied: “Well if you’re transiting through an airport… and we’ve checked this with the World Health Organisation (WHO)… and they don’t have a significant concern at all with transit airports.

“So if you’re flying through an airport on to another destination, it’s the destination that you’re heading to or the destination that you originate from, that’s the country that determines whether you are effectively on the so-called green list or not.”

Responding to the confusion which has greeted the rules around travelling in and out of the country, Coveney said: “I can accept if there has been some confusion in the last number of days which is why it was important that the government made a definitive decision last night.

“And it is important to say that the travel advice has changed in relation to the countries that are on this so-called green list.”

Coveney added that the systems put in place in airports are becoming more robust, including the expanded capacity of a call centre to ensure that everyone who comes into the country gets a follow-up call to monitor information provided on a passenger locator form and that they’re fully up to speed on public health advice.

You can listen to Simon Coveney's Morning Ireland interview in full here.