Leo Varadkar says international travel between UK and Ireland likely to be "first step"
Some good news on the travel front.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that international travel between the United Kingdom and Ireland will likely be the "first step" during the easing of travel restrictions over the coming months.
Speaking on KCLR's The Bottom Line on Sunday, the Tánaiste said that free travel between Ireland the UK would be likely to come first during the reopening of aviation due to the low incidence and high vaccination rates in Britain.
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."
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said last week that international travel could be a possibility by the "latter part of the summer" as he confirmed that Ireland will join the EU's digital green certificate system.
Speaking at a press conference in Cork on Sunday, Martin said that "possibilities" may open for people to travel between EU member states, once the green cert rollout begins.
"Europe is pressing ahead with it in terms of the technology side of it," he said.
"There will be more work to be done in terms of the application of these passports, but we want a European-wide, interoperable portal where people can register the fact that they have been vaccinated, that they had a negative PCR test or they have recovered from Covid. So, I think, that is the next stage.
"That is something Ireland is going to participate in - we are going to participate in that European-wide framework. We will work through this."
The Taoiseach also confirmed that Ireland could see the reopening of international travel by the end of summer, however, he said it will be dependent on the success of the vaccination programme and case numbers.
"Certainly, by the latter part of the summer, possibilities may open up, but we have got to track the virus, keep on top of it and keep the pressure on it," he added.
"This has been a balancing act so far. Let's not forget we are still at 400+ cases a day and that is something we will always keep an eye on."
The European Commission has said the Digital Green Certificates, also known as EU Covid-19 certificates, will "reaffirm the right to free movement in Europe during the pandemic".
The document, which may be presented in a digital or paper format, will prove that a person travelling throughout the EU has either been vaccinated against Covid-19, has a recent negative test result, or has recently recovered from the virus.