Could we really jet off and welcome visitors from next Wednesday, or are sun holidays still weeks away? Our Travel Editor cuts through the confusion...
The debate about opening overseas travel has ramped up. Here's the latest on where Ireland stands, and what's likely to happen our holidays.
What are the chances of getting away for a sun holiday?
They're on the rise.
Ireland's Aviation Recovery Taskforce has recommended that advice against non-essential overseas travel, and the 14-day quarantine requirement for arriving passengers, be dropped from July 1.
Although Ireland has had "equivalent or even better success" in containing Covid-19, it is significantly behind other EU countries in lifting restrictions, the Taskforce warned - and the economic damage is mounting.
If accepted, the recommendations could make sun holidays (and inbound tourism) possible from next Wednesday, the same date Ryanair begins ramping up its summer schedules.
This is far from guaranteed, however.
Other European countries are reopening, so why aren't we?
June has been a month of reopenings, with Italy welcoming EU visitors without quarantine since June 3, and major destinations like France, Spain and Portugal all now back in business.
The EU has also been actively encouraging member states to reopen borders, and Ryanair and Aer Lingus are pushing for a restart.
"This delay in lifting travel restrictions will further hurt our industry, as Irish customers will be forced to wait to book their holidays, which will in turn drastically slow the recovery of the Irish travel sector," says Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents' Association.
However, the Government has not indicated whether it will accept the Taskforce recommendations, a Cabinet sub-committee seems to be steering towards at least the second week in July for unlocking, and An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, favours a "careful" approach.
"We've got our case load of this virus down so low now that there is a real risk of reimporting it from countries where the virus is still very prevalent," he told RTE's Prime Time this week.
So when could restrictions be lifted?
Cabinet will consider the Taskforce report on Thursday.
July 1 looks like the earliest date, but July 9, 10 and 16 have also been mentioned.
To allow travel, the Department of Foreign Affairs would need to lift its blanket advice against all "non-essential travel" until further notice - at least to certain countries.
Critical business is being lost with every day of delay, and it's possible that things could be accelerated - as has happened with the domestic Roadmap - but the Government and NPHET are also clearly wary about the risks of importing cases to the island.
There is lots of talk about 'air bridges'; how do they work?
"If we're going to open air travel between Ireland and other countries we need to do it safely," An Taoiseach has said, adding that this could be done by air bridges.
Air bridges are essentially agreed travel channels, where countries with similarly low levels of the virus (and strong healthcare systems) pair with each other to permit travel.
Spain, the Canary Islands, France, Portugal, Greece and Italy could be some examples of "approved" countries for initial overseas travel. Ireland could open to several of these first, for example, adding other countries if and when situations improved.
Britain, the US and long-haul travel, however, are likely to remain off-limits to non-essential travel, or the subject of returning quarantines, for longer.
Have people been booking flights?
Ryanair has summer sale prices from €19.99, and some have been taking punts on July and August bookings (without adding extras like bags or seat selection) in the hope that restrictions will lift.
“Irish customers are booking in their thousands to summer destinations in Spain and Portugal, such as Malaga, Lanzarote, Tenerife or Faro," the airline told us.
It has also seen "a surge" in bookings to Eastern Europe since restrictions eased there, it says, though inbound flight sales to Ireland are much slower.
"We're back flying to Europe this July," Aer Lingus says on its website, with summer fares to Faro, for example, advertised from €39.99 one-way.
Passenger numbers are slowly rising at Dublin Airport (albeit still at a trickle of normal levels), airlines are signalling a limited return, and both Ryanair and Aer Lingus have dropped change fees for bookings made for July and August, though you should carefully read the T&Cs on any offers.
Other holidaymakers had booked for July and August before Covid-19, and held off cancelling - whether they will have suntans in September remains to be seen.
Is it risky to book now?
If you jet off while the Government advises against such trips, your travel insurance won't cover you overseas - in almost all cases.
If there are further outbreaks or travel restrictions, and flights operate anyway, then you will not be able to claim a refund from the airline.
Will holidays be different once they resume?
Yes. When the go-ahead is given for air travel, passengers will need to prepare for a brave new world of airport and in-flight experiences.
Face masks, distancing and perspex screens will be widespread, and some countries are running not just temperature screening, but requiring Covid-19 tests for arrivals.
Potential travellers should think through the experience that awaits them and their families, prepare carefully for the journeys, and consider how the in-resort experience may differ, too. You may have to book pool, beach and activity slots by appointment, for instance, and activities will change considerably.
Holidays are coming, but not as we know them.
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