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Opening schools is more important than restarting foreign travel - Taoiseach insists

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Flight attendants in their PPE waiting for passengers to board a flight in the UK. The Taoiseach ruled out easing of quarantine rules for British tourists coming here. Photo: Ben Queenborough/PinPep/TUI/PA Wire

Flight attendants in their PPE waiting for passengers to board a flight in the UK. The Taoiseach ruled out easing of quarantine rules for British tourists coming here. Photo: Ben Queenborough/PinPep/TUI/PA Wire

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Flight attendants in their PPE waiting for passengers to board a flight in the UK. The Taoiseach ruled out easing of quarantine rules for British tourists coming here. Photo: Ben Queenborough/PinPep/TUI/PA Wire

There will be no change in the quarantine rule for people travelling to Ireland from Britain, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has insisted.

Mr Martin has said it is too early for holidaymakers in Britain to return to Ireland without being quarantined for 14 days.

He said the Government advice is to avoid non-essential travel as the main priority remains to have schools reopen at the end of next month.

The Taoiseach said his Cabinet will discuss international travel further this coming week, including whether to strengthen resources at airports.

"We would be very cautious on international travel generally," he said, again saying international travel arrangements will be announced next Monday.

"On July 20 we will announce our measures in relation to international travel and essentially we have developed a methodology somewhat similar to the European Union and its relation with third countries.

"Essentially, the methodology will be in relation to the level of the disease in particular countries, including the UK, countries that are at Ireland's level or below," the Taoiseach said.

"In terms of people coming in to Ireland, the advisory and the quarantining still remains and it's under constant review.

"Why? Because there's a lot of international volatility with this virus, we've seen a spike in numbers. We're very concerned about that," added Mr Martin as he spoke on the BBC's 'The Andrew Marr Show'.

The Taoiseach emphasised the Government wants to take a cautious approach.

"The suppression of the virus is key. We've watched reports where, in certain parts of the UK, there are still difficulties where certain areas had to go into lockdown and so on, and further severe restrictions," he said.

He added that the Irish authorities are doing "everything we possibly can" to avoid a second spike of the virus.

The reproductive rate of Covid-19 was found to have increased to the crucial figure of one last week.

"Clearly the agenda for the Government is very much dominated by the continued prevalence of the virus and we're watching very carefully what is happening across Europe in terms of spikes and in terms of experiences of other member states who have opened up earlier than we have," he added.

Border

Mr Martin also ruled out a border poll, as demanded by Sinn Féin, as "far too divisive at this stage".

Instead, the Taoiseach wants to focus on building relationships to share the island of Ireland "in peace and harmony", he said.

Mr Martin also urged an "injection of momentum" in the Brexit talks between the UK and EU to find a way to secure a deal before the end of the transition period.

Sinn Féin has been calling for a border poll amid the political turbulence caused by Brexit and uncertainty over future arrangements.

The new three-party coalition's Programme for Government includes an all-island unit in the Department of the Taoiseach "to develop fresh thinking" on the longer-term prospect of Irish unity.

"I want to inject greater momentum into the North-South dimension," Mr Martin added.

Irish Independent