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Green may be for go, but Government is still holding stop sign


The Colosseum monument in Rome

The Colosseum monument in Rome

The Colosseum monument in Rome

After weeks of delay and mixed messages, the Cabinet is finally set to sign off Ireland's green list - the countries to which travel is deemed safe and from which travellers will not have to restrict their movements on return.

Punters, airlines, tourism businesses and health experts have all been crying out for clarity and hope they will get it this week.

What countries will make it on to the green list?

Government favours a short list but upwards of a dozen countries could be included, based on rates of Covid-19 similar to, or better than, Ireland's.

Our 14-day cumulative total is 4.8 cases per 100,000 people. Norway, Malta, Cyprus, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Greece and Estonia are among those with fewer; Germany (6.3), Holland (6.4) and Denmark (5.3) some with slightly more. France (11.5) is an outside bet.

Who won't make it?

The UK, US and Sweden are very unlikely. Spain (18), Portugal (46.1) and Croatia (29.5) are also in doubt.

So can we holiday in green list countries?

Green may suggest go but all the signals are that the government will continue to advise against non-essential travel, even to green list countries.

Without clear direction, the worry is that people will continue to take decisions into their own hands.

Why publish it then?

The government must wish a list had never been mentioned. But a line needs to be drawn under this urgently.

Rising cases and a lack of quarantine enforcement and airport testing have unnerved many, with some believing Ireland should seal itself off like New Zealand.

Others say connectivity is crucial and that travel-related cases are relatively low. Whatever happens, the confusion needs to end.

Could the government change its travel advice for green list countries?

It's possible, but unlikely. Ireland has four travel advice categories.

Avoid non-essential travel is Level 3, which now applies. Switching green list countries to Level 2 (high degree of caution) is an option but would be seen as encouraging travel, which the government does not want to do.

Will the list be reviewed?

Yes, fortnightly, taking account of caseloads. That could present another problem for people who decide to travel: what happens if a country is removed from the list while you're there?

Aren't people travelling overseas anyway?

Yes, but the figures are relative. About 12,000 passengers are passing through Dublin Airport a day but that compares to 112,000 last July.

Others are trying to cancel or reschedule. The mess is making travel impossible to plan and undermining the travel advisory system.

Will travel insurance work in a green list country?

No. Most policies will not cover you if you travel to a country to which the government advises against non-essential travel.

Will it be enforced?

Unlikely. Inbound passengers are required to fill out locator forms and advised to restrict their movements for 14 days after inbound travel. This is not policed, however - a cause of much debate recently.

What is the problem?

On the one hand, the government is asking people to avoid non-essential travel. On the other, it has described a green list of countries to which you would not have to self-isolate or restrict movements on return and would not have as much risk as Killarney or Dublin.

What does this mean for inbound tourism?

It depends on the wording.

If overseas visitors from green list countries take that as a free pass to visit Ireland, there could be some resumption - but clearly local businesses would have to trust in the process and not turn such visitors way.

But months of delay, mixed messaging and the exclusion of our two most important markets - the UK and US - will have devastating effects on Irish tourism and the businesses that supply it.