Government must axe Covid quarantine next week – aviation taskforce

Report says 14-day isolation period makes business and other travel hard

The Government should axe its controversial Covid-19 quarantine on incoming passengers by next week, a State-appointed task force says.  Photograph: Kate Geraghty

The Government should axe its controversial Covid-19 quarantine on incoming passengers by next week, a State-appointed task force says. Photograph: Kate Geraghty

 

The Government should axe its controversial Covid-19 quarantine on incoming passengers by next week, a State-appointed taskforce says.

Covid-19 travel restrictions require anyone travelling into the State from the EU and elsewhere to quarantine for 14 days. A report by the Taskforce for Aviation Recovery calls on the Government to clarify the quarantine rules to “facilitate” its lifting by July 1st.

“A 14-day quarantine period makes non-essential and discretionary travel challenging, and inhibits business-related travel, which is critical for the Irish economy,” the report says.

Industry figures have criticised the quarantine. Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary dimissed it as impossible to implement.

The task force admits that the Republic is “significantly behind” other EU member states in lifting Covid-19 travel restrictions, despite being as or more successful in containing the pandemic.

Its report points out that the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, called on member states earlier this month to end travel bans by June 15th.

The task force argues that the Republic should lift travel restrictions “ideally” by July 1st.

Also by that deadline, the document calls on the State to adopt a code of practice for safe air travel that follows recommendations jointly published by the European Centre for Disease Control and European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

They include that passengers wear face masks, in airports and on board craft, and stay 2m apart in queues.

The task force urges the Government to save jobs in the industry by continuing cash support for the industry, particularly the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

“The reduction in aviation activity over the summer will make the traditional loss-making winter period in aviation particularly challenging,” its report warns.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, appointed the task force, whose members represent the industry, workers and Government.

Businessman Chris Horn chairs the group whose members include: Dalton Philips, chief executive of DAA, the company responsible for Cork and Dublin airports; Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions; Aer Lingus chief executive Sean Doyle; David O’Brien, commercial director at Ryanair; and Conor McCarthy, chief execuitve of aircraft maintenance group Dublin Aerospace.

Mr Doyle called on the Goverment to implement the report’s recommendations immediately. He warned that aviation would be critical to the Republic’s economic recovery.

Tthe Republic’s failure to follow other EU states has worsened the crisis in Irish aviation, Mr Doyle said. “This is having a negative impact upon jobs within the industry and upon the industry’s ability to recover,” he said.

Mr Philips pointed out that the report recommends restrictions be eased by July 1st.

“”Tourism, trade and foreign direct investment are key elements of the Irish economy and over the medium-term, aviation will play a major role in helping the Irish economy to begin to recover from the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the DAA chief executive.