Covid-19: Cabinet looks to tighten travel restrictions and decide on pubs reopening

Pubs unlikely to reopen amid 46 new cases and talk of pre-departure tests for visitors

The Department of Transport was asked by the Cabinet a fortnight ago to investigate a system which would see passengers having to undergo Covid tests prior to their departure for Ireland. Photograph: Colin Keegan

The Department of Transport was asked by the Cabinet a fortnight ago to investigate a system which would see passengers having to undergo Covid tests prior to their departure for Ireland. Photograph: Colin Keegan

 

The Cabinet will on Tuesday consider proposals to reduce the number of countries to which people are permitted to travel without having to restrict their movements upon their return. Ministers will discuss proposals to shorten the travel “green list” alongside other measures to tighten restrictions on those arriving into Ireland from Covid-19 hotspots.

It is understood that Malta and Cyprus may be removed from the green list.

Senior Cabinet figures have also warned they are “not optimistic” about pubs reopening next week.

The Cabinet will discuss recommendations on the roadmap to reopening from the National Public Health Emergency Team as well as proposals to tighten up travel restrictions.

It is understood the option of departure Covid tests will form part of the discussion whereby a passenger would have to take a test before they arrive in Ireland.

Government sources said that while the focus remained on ensuring that schools could reopen at the end of the month, it was unlikely there would be any major change in international travel policy until September when the schools return.

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“We need to be realistic about international travel. You can’t cut off business, travel, and people seeing their partners and loved ones for a year or years,” a source said ahead of the Cabinet meeting.

The Government is likely instead to look at ways to reduce risk when it comes to travel within Europe with tighter restrictions when it comes to travel to and from hotspots.

The Department of Transport was asked by the Cabinet a fortnight ago to investigate the efficacy and potential of a system which would see passengers having to undergo Covid tests prior to their departure for Ireland.

It was envisaged the test would be taken within 24-72 hours prior to travel and proof of a negative test result would be presented to Irish immigration officials on arrival.

Under such a system, the cost of the test would be borne by the traveller rather than the State.

It was also envisaged that, under such a process, intending passengers who were found to be positive for Covid-19 would not undertake their planned journey. This would avoid the necessity to test all other passengers in the event of one traveller being found to be Covid-19 positive after the journey was made.

HSE funding

Meanwhile, as Ministers prepare to consider the recent increase in Covid-19 cases in Ireland, doctors have warned of a “gaping hole” over funding at the heart of the new Health Service Executive plan to recommence health services which was shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic several months ago.

The Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) said on Monday it had raised concerns with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly at a meeting in recent days over the HSE plan for a safe return to services published in late July.

The Department of Health said in response: “The HSE receives significant funding from the State, and additional funding has been provided to the HSE this year to support its response to the Covid-19 crisis. Funding for the HSE will be kept under review as the provision of non-Covid services resumes.”

Meanwhile, the latest figures show there have been no further deaths related to Covid-19 in the State but 46 new cases are confirmed.

This means the death toll from the virus remains at 1,763 while the total number of cases in the State rises to 26,208.

The five-day average is 53.4, a figure boosted by the 85 cases reported on Thursday.

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