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'Don't travel abroad or you might not be able to come back,' Government warns

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Many would-be passengers will find their flights cancelled. Picture: Reuters

Many would-be passengers will find their flights cancelled. Picture: Reuters

REUTERS

Many would-be passengers will find their flights cancelled. Picture: Reuters

The Government has advised against any non-essential travel overseas as part of its plan to tackle the increasing threat of the coronavirus.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney announced he was recommending against any travel outside of Ireland following advice from public health officials and airlines.

Mr Coveney warned there would be "enormous disruption" to air travel across Europe in the coming days and said he could not guarantee when people would be able to return home.

"Non-essential travel effectively means people who are choosing to go overseas and don't need to - they shouldn't be doing it. That is now our clear health advice and also travel advice," he said. "We can't be sure they can get back."

Mr Coveney also said he had been told by airlines across Europe that they would be grounding their fleets in the coming days.

"We are also seeing other EU countries closing borders, closing airports and not facilitating air transport in and out," he said.

"Non-essential travel shouldn't be happening to and from this island and that is so we can keep people safe."

The Tánaiste said the Government would ensure "key supply chains" that bring goods into Ireland would be maintained throughout the crisis. "Those supply chains are important and we need to maintain them and we regard that as essential travel," he said.

Mr Coveney said travel restrictions would be imposed on everyone who entered the Republic from now on.

All people, including Irish residents, who arrive here will be asked to restrict their movements.

He said: "It is not quite self-isolation but involves significant restrictions."

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is assessing whether to ban all non-essential travel into Ireland following a proposal by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

However, Mr Varadkar will not ban travel between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The Commission president called on all EU states to ban non-essential travel into the EU for 30 days.

After Mr Varadkar spoke to Ms Von der Leyen, his spokesperson said the Taoiseach would "assess the proposals" in the context of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK and the implications they might have on the movement of people on the island.

However, he said "under no circumstances" will he consider the closure of the Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"It is important to stress that the proposals would not, of themselves, restrict movement of EU citizens, including Irish citizens.

"The commission president has also confirmed that they would not restrict movement of UK citizens within the rest of the EU," he added.

The proposals will be discussed by EU leaders in a video conference tomorrow.

The European Commission's proposals are for a temporary ban of non-essential travel into the EU apart from exemptions for EU citizens, healthcare workers and goods vehicles.

The restrictions are expected to be applied by all Schengen countries, with non-Schengen countries - of which Ireland is one - having the option to apply them as well.

Ms Von der Leyen said the less people travelled the better chance the EU had of containing the virus.

"I propose to the heads of state in governments to introduce a temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union," she said.

"We think non-essential travel should be reduced right now too, in order to not spread the virus further, be it in the EU or by leaving the EU, but also to avoid non-essential travel to not to have more potential strain on our health system."

The restrictions will be in place for an initial 30 days but this "can be prolonged as necessary".

Exemptions are included for long-term residents of the EU and family members of EU nationals and diplomats as well as those commuting between borders for work.

"Essential staff such as doctors, nurses, care workers, researchers and experts that help address the coronavirus should continue to be allowed in the European Union.

"People transporting goods are exempted too," she said, "including essential items such as medicines and food."

Irish Independent