No EU country will feature on this week’s Government Covid-19 travel green list, TDs and senators have been told.
Travellers from countries not on the controversial green list are told to self-isolate for two weeks after arriving here, creating a major barrier to tourists and business people coming to the Republic.
Eddie Wilson, Ryanair executive, told the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Networks Committee on Wednesday that when the Government publishes its updated green list on Thursday, not one of the EU27 will be included.
"Tomorrow, when the green list comes out, they will be saying we're closed to every country in Europe, " he said.
Cyprus, Finland, Latvia and Liechtenstein, which does not have an airport, are the remaining countries on the list, which stood at 14 when the Government published the first version in July.
Only countries with Covid-19 rates of 25 per 100,000 or less are included on the list, which the Department of Foreign Affairs publishes every Thursday. The restrictions apply from the following Monday.
European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) figures show that no EU state has a rate lower than 25 per 100,000.
The Department of Foreign Affairs uses these figures, which are updated daily, to compile the green list.
Officials did not comment on the possible make up of Thursday’s list, but acknowledged that Covid rates in other EU states were unlikely to change from Wednesday.
Airlines and airports want the Government to adopt the EU’s proposed traffic light system, which grades countries as green, orange and red, according to their Covid-19 rates, and does away with quarantines.
Under this, people arriving from green and orange countries should face no restrictions once they arrive, while those coming from red – high risk – regions, should show test results confirming they do not have the virus.
That system could require Irish people to get tested before flying should the Republic be designated red.
Independent healthcare companies are ready to provide tests at Cork and Dublin airports, according to Dalton Philips, chief executive of DAA, the State company that runs both.
“We have teams ready to go,” he confirmed to the committee. Initially at least, passengers could need tests confirming they are Covid free around three days before travelling.
While the testing centres will be in DAA airports, the company itself will not be carrying them out. It has spoken to around 20 businesses willing to do the work. They will charge passengers for the tests.
Both Mr Wilson and Aer Lingus chief executive, Sean Doyle, urged the Government to adopt the EU system.
Mr Doyle pointed out that the most important feature of the scheme was allowing those from green and orange regions to travel without restrictions.
Ryanair recently warned that it would have to close its Cork and Shannon airports bases for the winter if the Government failed to adopt the system.
Eamon Ryan, Minister for Transport, said that EU foreign ministers would decide on adopting the system at a meeting on Tuesday, October 13th.
Passenger numbers have fallen 90 per cent this year while Cork and Dublin airports have lost €150 million.
“Our sector has been demonised since this pandemic began,” Mr Philips declared.
Mr Doyle warned that the Republic’s air routes to the rest the world were “gone”.