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Flights ban could last all summer as Government delays lifting foreign travel restrictions

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Dr Ronan Glynn. Picture: Collins

Dr Ronan Glynn. Picture: Collins

Colin Keegan

Dr Ronan Glynn. Picture: Collins

People are likely to be discouraged from flying abroad for the rest of the summer as the Government delays the lifting of foreign travel restrictions.

Expectations that ministers would this week publish a list of countries to which it is safe to travel were scotched last Friday amid growing anxiety in government over the impact such a move would have on the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland.

People are now likely to continue to be advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad and to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in Ireland until at least July 20.

A further decision will be taken at that point based on the latest public health advice.

Some ministers privately argued that all foreign travel should be avoided by people in Ireland for the rest of the summer - even as thousands of holidaymakers left the country on flights last week. The current advice remains that people should avoid non-essential foreign travel - and this is likely to be reiterated and reinforced in the coming days.

"The public health advice is clear that we shouldn't be travelling and we have to get that across in a very clear way," a government source said.

A 'green list' of countries to which it would be safe to travel - and not be required to quarantine upon return - is set to be postponed until at least July 20.

Ireland now has one of the lowest Covid-19 rates in Europe, according to acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn, who said last Friday that the incidence of the virus over the 14 days was just three cases per 100,000 people. This complicates the publication of any green list as it is likely to include countries that have a higher rate of the disease.

"The problem is that we're now the best in Europe for the last three weeks. So anything on the 'green list' certainly in terms of any country you'd want to go to is a lot worse than us," said a well-placed source.

A government spokesman said a decision on travel restrictions will be taken at a meeting of the Cabinet tomorrow but declined to say what this would be.

Meanwhile, the new Cabinet committee on economic recovery and investment is expected to meet this week to consider proposals that will be announced in the July stimulus package later this month.

A source familiar with the initial discussions said the package of measures could cost up to €10bn and is likely to be announced in the Dail the week after next.

A cut in the 13.5pc rate of VAT - which is being sought by tourism and hospitality groups - is on the table. The future of the temporary wage subsidy scheme, which sees the State cover a portion of employees' wages in private companies, is also likely to be clarified. A gradual tapering of the scheme to avoid a cliff edge for companies and their workers has previously been mooted.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said last week the stimulus package would be focused on getting people back to work and supporting SMEs.

Sunday Independent