Government intransigence on air travel restrictions raises questions
The health service may be far closer to the edge than our Government cares to admit
Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus plan to cancel some flights to and from the Republic in coming weeks. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Air travel looks likely to struggle to get off the ground in coming weeks as the Government persists with travel restrictions. Rules requiring incoming passengers to self-isolate for two weeks and tell the State where they will be staying for the period will remain in force until next month at least.
The Government is also imposing extra limits on its own workers’ liberty, requiring 300,000 public servants to apply for leave, including unpaid leave, after their holidays if they want to escape Ireland’s rain-sodden summer by going abroad.
All this continues to draw fire from the aviation industry, which is trying to emerge from prolonged grounding here while watching the rest of the EU take off. Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus plan to cancel some flights to and from the Republic in coming weeks.
Now, to top it all, the Government has confirmed that its “green list” of countries to which it is considered safe to travel will most likely not include the UK or the US. Excluding the US seems understandable, as Covid-19 infection rates continue to surge there. The logic behind leaving out the UK list is that the country still has serious incidences of the disease in different centres, notably that magnet for Irish people Leicester.
The UK is a big source of tourists for the Irish market, and air traffic between the two countries is normally busy. Excluding the US will hit Aer Lingus in particular, which has successfully expanded its business over the past five years by growing transatlantic flights.
Nevertheless, the Government is not for turning. It is continuing with the restrictions against the advice of its own task force on aviation recovery, which pointed out last week that these policies threaten the 150,000 jobs tied to that industry and the 280,000 or so in the hospitality business.
Politicians have weighed this against their own officials’ fears of the impact of a virus resurgence on the health service and opted to keep the shutters down.
Given what is at stake for tourism and aviation – two key industries – the only logical explanation for continued travel restrictions is that the health service is far closer to the edge than our Government cares to admit.