Cabinet to examine Covid-19 visitor restrictions to offshore islands
Residents express concerns about spread of Covid-19 and want to stay closed for longer
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) last week gave the green light for islands to fully reopen on June 29th.
The Cabinet is set to examine the issue of visitor restrictions to offshore islands following concerns from residents about the potential spread of Covid-19.
Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, the islands’ federation, met on Monday in a bid to formulate a uniform view before this week’s Cabinet meeting.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) last week gave the green light for islands to fully reopen on June 29th.
Government sources say there are “differences of opinion within and between Islands as to what should happen”.
It is understood that while many businesses are happy with the early opening, there is resistance from residents who want to stay closed for a longer period.
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Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and the Islands Sean Kyne is understood to be advocating for a phased approach and for those with family connections or island properties to be allowed to travel from June 29th followed by a full reopening around July 20th.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told Cabinet colleagues that there will need to be a consistent or uniform approach from all islands if the NPHET advice is to be overturned.
Currently only island residents and those providing essential services are permitted to travel to the islands.
In a parliamentary question answered earlier this month, Mr Kyne said that “while the Government recognises the importance of tourism to the economy of the islands, the well-being of island residents and the operators of lifeline services to these islands must be given priority at this time”.
Residents on the islands have told politicians they are concerned about a potentially rapid spread of coronavirus when travel restrictions are lifted.
A HSE review previously found that health services on the offshore islands vary between different islands and need improvement in many areas.
The 2018 review looked at the provision of health services to nearly 3,000 people living on 18 islands off the coast of Ireland that are not connected by a land causeway with the mainland. It called for Government policy to be “island proofed” so that policies take into account the impact on their residents. The review found that people living on islands have significant distances to travel to access services.