Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has described the "green list" for overseas travel as the "most conservative and cautious" list in the European Union. He insisted the Government was obliged to inform the public in relation to countries that are low risk compared to Ireland.
Fifteen countries and territories have been included on the green list and people travelling to and from these destinations will not have to go through a mandatory period of quarantine when returning from them.
Malta, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece, Greenland, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino have been included on the list and deemed as safe for travel with “normal precautions”.
However, the Government has been accused of creating confusion as in its statement listing the countries it said “the safest thing to do is not to travel”.
“The pandemic is not over and the public health advice remains the same,” it added.
Speaking on Drivetime on RTÉ Radio 1 on Wednesday, Mr Donnelly said the message from the Government was clear.
“We don’t want people travelling on holiday this summer,” he said. “The Government position is ‘please holiday at home this summer’. That is a consistent message.
“There is a list now of 15 countries. The reason we have this list is because the Department of Foreign Affairs must provide Irish citizens with accurate information if they’re going to travel.
“If you are going to travel – we are cognisant of the fact a lot of people are travelling – we have an obligation to provide accurate information.
“So, we’ve worked very closely with the Chief Medical Officer, with the public health experts, and said ‘let’s take a really, really cautious approach to the countries we believe have a lower risk level for Covid than we do’.
“The list released last night is the most conservative and cautious list anywhere in the European Union.”
Mr Donnelly also said mandatory quarantining of people arriving at Irish ports would be ineffective and could lead to clusters. He added that the Government would instead be introducing new measures to combat the spread of the virus.
“We’re putting the travel locator form on an electronic basis from August 10th,” he said. “You’ll have to fill it in several days ahead of time.
“We’re increasing the capacity for making contact with people when they are here. We’re bringing in rapid access to testing for people who are symptomatic in the airport – really important – and we’re looking at additional measures as well such as pre-testing before you come.”
Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney acknowledged there is some confusion about the green list but denied that the Coalition made a "hames" of its advice on the issue. However, he said there were still 50,000 people leaving the State every week.