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Holiday chaos: no clarity on 'green list' destinations

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Holidaymakers face travel chaos as massive uncertainty remains over which countries will be included on a special ‘green list’, or how long they will stay on it.

Airlines have been selling flights for people that want to travel as early as next week, but it could be July 9 before the list of approved countries with low coronavirus rates is revealed. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last night said the advice for people remained that they should not engage in non-essential travel and “that stands”.

Mr Varadkar said that people travelling home from holidays in countries on the so-called ‘green list’ won’t be required to go into quarantine for 14 days.

He said the list of countries would be co-ordinated at EU level – but asked about Britain, he said instances of coronavirus there were “very high” and if the decision was being taken now, the quarantine requirement would not be removed.

And in remarks that will be of concern to people intending to travel soon, Mr Varadkar warned: “I do need to caution people, that list of countries will be reviewed and it may change every two weeks.

“So we may see it getting longer but if a country ends up having a second wave or there are spikes then they may be taken off that list of countries.”

It came as Cabinet also signed off on plans to develop an exemption on limits to the number of people attending religious ceremonies and face coverings are to become mandatory on public transport.

Speaking about the possible 'green list' of travel destinations, the Taoiseach added: "We'll see where we stand on the 9th of July."

Mr Varadkar said that as part of plans to ease travel restrictions, checks and controls would be stepped up at ports and airports.

The passenger locator form system is to go online and there will be an expanded list of essential workers who can travel to and from countries that aren't on the 'green list'

The so-called 'air bridges' will be with countries that have similar instances of the virus to Ireland.

Mr Varadkar said he couldn't say for certain that there wouldn't be a spike in Covid-19 cases here as travel restrictions eased. He pointed to New Zealand where it had been believed the virus was eradicated before fresh cases emerged due to air travel.

He said: "I think we will see additional outbreaks", but added: "Are we really saying that we will never allow our citizens to come home?

"That my sister in London will never be allowed come home? I don't think that's acceptable."

Elsewhere, Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy said passengers coming from the United States should not be allowed to enter Ireland because they could be infected with Covid-19.

Mr Brophy told the Dáil's Covid-19 committee: "I would not have anyone coming from the United States at the moment whether they passed any test at all."

The Cabinet last night also agreed that an exemption will be developed on restrictions in people that can gather indoors for churches.

Mr Varadkar said: "At the moment we're only allowing 50 people maximum to meet indoors.

"That will go to 100 on July 20. However, a specific protocol is going to be worked with churches and religious bodies to allow more people to attend religious ceremonies."

He said it would be "policed" by the religious organisations themselves.

"It will really acknowledge the fact that there are some very large churches that could accommodate more than 50 people with social distancing, with precautions, but the detail of that still has to be worked out," Mr Varadkar added.

On face masks, Health Minister Simon Harris said the hope was the Government would be in a position to introduce regulations providing for their mandatory use on public transport in the next seven to 10 days.

He said there would be "sanctions" for non-compliance - but added: "I'm not yet in a position to detail how some of those issues around enforcement will work".

Mr Harris said the Government hadn't given any consideration to providing face coverings, but that people shouldn't wait for the law to change.

He added: "You just need to get yourself a face covering. We're not talking about a medical face mask.

"You can make them at home, there's very good and simple videos online through the Department of Health's website."

He said people should get into the habit of carrying one with them.

Mr Harris said the use of face coverings in other settings remained under review, when asked about the prospect of them being made mandatory in supermarkets as well.

He said the rationale behind the planned regulations for public transport was that there was a need on buses and trains, where it's not possible to keep two-metre social distancing.

Mr Harris added: "There is very clear public health advice around supermarkets, shops and anywhere you can't socially distance, you should wear a face covering in those situations."

Mr Varadkar confirmed that phase three of the Government's 'roadmap' would start from Monday when "almost all remaining businesses, amenities and workplaces can reopen".

He said recent months hadn't been easy for anybody and offered condolences to everyone who had lost loved ones during this emergency

"In the months ahead, I hope we can have a national day of commemoration so we can mourn together as a nation and grieve for what we lost," he said.

In what could be his last press conference as Taoiseach, Mr Varadkar said serving in the role had been "the honour of my life".

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Irish Independent