Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said the ‘Green List’ of countries deemed safe for international travel should be ditched if people living in Ireland are advised against flying to destinations exempt from quarantine.
Ahead of a Cabinet meeting this evening, Mr Varadkar issued a statement criticising “mixed messages” around the Government’s plans to ease travel restrictions for countries with similar levels of Covid-19.
The Tánaiste’s spokesperson said Mr Varadkar “believes strongly that it’s wrong to send out mixed messages about international travel”.
“The Tanaiste believes there should be a Green List as was previously agreed by Government. But if the travel advice for countries on the Green List isn’t different to advice for other countries, then we would be better off not having a green list at all,” he added.
Mr Varadkar’s intervention prompted Labour leader Alan Kelly to tell Micheál Martin in the Dáil: “I’m beginning to wonder who’s the Taoiseach."
Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s spokesperson said he would not be commenting as the matter was up for discussion at Cabinet.
The Cabinet is expected to agree on a list of around a dozen countries where passengers arriving in Ireland will be exempt from rules requiring them to quarantine for two weeks on arrival.
However, the Government has said people living in Ireland will still be advised not to travel to these destinations.
Under Mr Varadkar’s government it was proposed that so called ‘air bridges’ be created between Ireland and countries designated safe for travel on the Green List.
This would mean people living in Ireland could travel to and from these destinations without the need to quarantine for two weeks in either country.
People travelling to country’s on the Green List will still be able to avoid self-isolating on their return. However, Mr Martin and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly are still eager to discourage people from making any nonessential journeys due a spike in the number of new cases in Ireland.
In the Dáil, Mr Kelly challenged the Taoiseach on why Covid-19 tests aren’t being carried out at airports when people arrive.
Referring to Mr Varadkar’s statement he also said: "I'm beginning to wonder who's the Taoiseach.”
He said Mr Martin and other ministers have suggested a green list would be published this evening.
Mr Kelly added that Mr Varadkar said that due to mixed messages he didn’t see the point of a green list being published.
“So which is it? Is it what you say in here or is it what he says outside?,” Mr Kelly said.
Mr Martin responded saying the government will decide on the matter this evening.
He said that the green list has previously been postponed.
Mr Martin said the challenge is living with Covid-19 and “getting the balance right” and added: “the government will decide on that.”
He said that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is not in favour of systematic testing at airports as “they feel it could do more damage than good”.
Mr Martin said from a lay-person’s perspective it looks like an “obvious” measure but there are “all sorts of implications and complications”.
He said there could be false positives or negatives and it could have a “huge impact” on the current testing and tracing operation which is deployed elsewhere at the moment.
It's not often we experience nationalistic pride, a moment which unites us all. The odd sporting triumph, a successful export not making a show of themselves on telly, Americans dying their rivers green for Paddy's Day, it's a rare occasion when we all rise as one and say, 'Jaysus, isn't it great to be Irish?'