International travel won't resume until August "at the earliest", says Leo Varadkar
He's also hopeful travel between the UK and Ireland will be able to resume "very soon".
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that it will be “August at the earliest” before non-essential international travel can resume from Ireland.
He added that as 60% of adults here have yet to be vaccinated, any reopening of the aviation industry will have to be gradual to prevent the spread of new variants of the virus.
“It’s against the law at moment to leave Ireland for non-essential reasons, but we will have to change that law at some point,” Varadkar said at the virtual launch of James Geoghegan’s campaign as Fine Gael’s Dublin Bay South by-election candidate.
“I think realistically it’s likely to be towards the end of the summer, August at the earliest, before we’re saying to people it’s OK to engage in non-essential international travel."
He added that the hotel quarantine system will likely remain in place in "some form" for the foreseeable future for "high-risk areas".
“I’d like to see us have travel within the EU again and perhaps the US, but there will be large parts of the world not vaccinated fully until the middle of next year some time," he said.
"I think we will have some form of mandatory hotel quarantine in place for those high-risk areas."
Varadkar also said that he is hopeful that unrestricted travel between the UK and Ireland will be able to return this summer.
“It is my fervent ambition that we will be able to restore the common travel area with Britain very soon, so people can travel without restrictions," he continued.
"We will be able to restore that at some stage this summer or Autumn."
When asked about a timeline for reopening, the Tánaiste said that travel to the UK could come before the full introduction of the European Green Certificate that would see travel to more countries in the EU becoming a possibility.
He said: "If I was to give an indication as to where I think it will go, I think it might be the common travel area first, so allowing people to travel freely between Britain and Ireland," he said.
"They’re heavily vaccinated in Britain, incidence there is lower than here, so I think that might be the first step."