Covid-19: Vaccination programme ‘chink of light’ for travel industry

Accelerated vaccine rollout will ‘give Government more options’ on overseas holidays

People anxious to take holidays outside of  Ireland in 2021 have been urged not to make any rash bookings. Photograph: iStock

People anxious to take holidays outside of Ireland in 2021 have been urged not to make any rash bookings. Photograph: iStock

 

The promise of an accelerated Covid-19 vaccination programme, which will see more than 80 per cent of adults offered at least one dose by June 30th, is a “chink of light” and could allow international travel to resume this summer, according to industry figures.

However, people anxious to take holidays somewhere other than Ireland in 2021 have been urged not to make any rash bookings or consider changing plans until the start of April at the earliest, when the prospects for the summer should be clearer.

A Government spokesman played down prospects of overseas holidays this summer but did not take it off the table entirely, saying the accelerated rollout of vaccines will “give the Government more options as the country heads into the summer months”.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health was downbeat about the prospects of inward and outbound travel resuming and told The Irish Times that it was “not yet understood whether available vaccines prevent vaccinated persons from being infected or transmitting the disease to others”.

A spokeswoman at the Department of the Taoiseach said it was “not possible at this moment to predict the public health situation in a variety of destinations in summer” and urged caution in light of the transmissibility of new variants of Covid-19.

“The rollout of the vaccination programme will give the Government more options as the country heads into the summer months, as long as the incidence of the disease continues to decline,” a Government spokesman said.

Pat Dawson of the Irish Travel Agents Association said the accelerated vaccination programme was a “chink of light at the end of a very dark tunnel” but he warned against booking overseas holidays just yet.

Travel bubble

“I would be very cautious given all that we have been through but it certainly seems brighter than it was before Christmas. I am more positive now than I was. I think the important thing is to get to April 5th and see where we are with case numbers and the vaccine rollout.”

He said he was “most reluctant to tell people to start booking before then” but suggested that they might at least start keeping an eye out, “particularly if they are thinking of travelling in September and October”.

Eoghan O’Mara Walsh from the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation said if the vaccine rollout goes as outlined, there would be a strong argument for reopening Ireland to visitors, at least from countries where the vaccine rollout is similarly advanced.

“There would certainly be a case for creating a travel bubble between Ireland and Britain, for example. Our hope is that by early April the Government will be in a position to set out a timetable for reopening Ireland. We are not talking about now or next month but in the second half of the year, but the planning has to start now.”