Ireland's new 'green list' comes into effect today, and just seven countries make the cut, reports Pól Ó Conghaile
Four countries have been added to Ireland's green list of overseas destinations people can visit without having to restrict their movements upon return.
However, six have also been removed, meaning just seven countries are now listed under the Department of Foreign Affairs' 'normal precautions' travel security advisory.
Changes taking effect from today Monday, September 21, mean the new list now includes Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
The 'old green list' - which included 10 countries and was last updated on August 4 - is no longer effective.
Estonia, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Italy, Norway and Slovakia have been removed, with their advisories changed to ‘avoid non-essential travel.’
The changes are an interim measure until mid-October, when Ireland is set to opt into the EU-wide ‘traffic light’ system for the resumption of safe travel.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the changes will ensure “a real green list” now frees up people to travel to and from these destinations, including for holidays, without having to restrict their movements for 14 days when they return.
People are still advised to avoid all 'non-essential travel' to any country not on the 'green list' (including cruise ships), however - and if they do travel to non-listed countries for essential reasons, to restrict their movements for 14 days on return.
"Between now and the EU signing off on a system, Ireland’s Green List will be updated on a weekly basis," said Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.
"People should use our travel advice to carefully consider their need to go abroad and take into account the restrictions that other countries may have on travellers from Ireland.”
Countries on the new 'green list' have fewer than 25 cases of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days, based on data provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
However, both Germany (25.8) and Iceland's (47.9) rate of cases per 100,000 have risen above the threshold since the list was announced last Thursday - meaning their places may be in jeopardy next week.
Irish citizens are also being warned that even if a country is on Ireland's 'green list', that doesn't guarantee hassle-free travel at the other end.
Countries continue to announce their own restrictions, and "this can include restrictions on arrivals from Ireland", the DFA says.
Ireland currently has a 14-day average of 54.7 cases per 100,000.
With these figures, for example, anyone travelling from Ireland to Cyprus must currently provide a negative Covid-19 test result on arrival, obtained within the previous 72 hours.
The European Commission's proposed 'traffic light' system is expected to be adopted in mid-October, and will see countries colour-coded based on their cumulative 14-day incidence of the virus per 100,000, as well other metrics such as the percentage of positive test results.
While the tourism industry last week gave a guarded welcome to the move, many have also pointed out that the changing nature of the interim 'green list' will make it difficult for people to plan holidays in advance, and that a travel-specific Covid-19 testing regime is urgently required - both in Ireland and throughout Europe.
In a statement released last Thursday, Ryanair called on the Irish Government "to put an end to their chaotic mismanagement of travel during the Covid-19 crisis".
Aer Lingus said it was "concerned" at the approach taken to the 'green list'.
It continued: "On Tuesday the Government indicated that it would align with the proposals developed by the European Commission which outlines a co-ordinated approach to free movement across the European Union and European Economic Area. The ‘green list’ announced today does not represent a step towards alignment with the European Commission’s free movement proposal.
"The application of that proposal would have seen the following countries retained on the list: Greece, Italy, Norway, and Slovakia. It would also have seen the following countries added to the list: Bulgaria, Sweden, Slovenia, Denmark, United Kingdom, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Malta.
"Aer Lingus looks forward to the early and complete implementation of the European Commission’s free movement proposal."
The DFA's latest travel advice is at this link.
PEOPLE will be able to fly to Germany, Poland, Cyprus and other European destinations free of Covid restrictions for holidays and other business from next Monday under changes to Government travel advice.