Opening of travel bubble between Britain and Ireland planned
Irish citizens could holiday in UK within weeks
Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin is to present to Government a tourism advisory group’s report aimed at getting the State ready to restart the tourism sector. It also recommends the removal of restrictions on UK visitors, thus effectively also allowing residents of the Republic to travel freely to Britain. Photograph :Gareth Chaney/Collins
Irish residents could be allowed to travel to Britain on holiday without restrictions within weeks as part of plans to open a travel bubble between Ireland and Britain.
It is understood that Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin is due next week to present to Government a tourism advisory group’s report that contains a number of recommendations aimed at getting the State ready to restart the embattled inbound tourism sector.
The report by the Recovery Oversight Group for Tourism calls for the Government to publish a plan no later than the end of May that would specify when curbs on inbound travel would be relaxed. It also recommends the removal of restrictions on UK visitors, thus effectively also allowing residents of the Republic to travel freely to Britain.
The plan would sit independently of any European Union “green certificate” travel scheme, which is due to be discussed at Cabinet next Tuesday. It is thought likely that this scheme could open up foreign travel to participating countries by Irish citizens by the end of June or possibly mid-July.
The rationale being considered by the Government for British travel is that from May 17th, non-essential travel between Britain and the North will resume under UK rules in any event. With an open border between the Republic and the North, those visitors would be able to freely travel throughout the island anyway.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transport indicated that the Government is expected to consider plans next week for the revision of mandatory hotel quarantine arrangements as well as moves to ease restrictions on travel.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said last night that he and his departmental officials were working closely with other departments “on plans to open up international travel including aviation”.
More than 120 people in mandatory hotel quarantine have tested positive for Covid-19 since it was introduced, according to new figures. Of the 127 detected cases, 42 involved a variant of concern, according to the Department of Health.
This week, the variant first discovered in India was officially designated a variant of concern. Up to last week, 20 cases had been identified in Ireland.
However, rapidly increasing increasing rates of vaccination mean more people are protected against serious illness.
The vaccine rollout continues to accelerate and passed the two-millionth dose milestone yesterday. HSE chief executive Paul Reid expects up to 280,000 people to be immunised next week. He said at the HSE’s weekly Covid-19 briefing yesterday that “joy and confidence emerging” was emerging from vaccination centres.
One in seven adults are now vaccinated fully, while 37 per cent have received one dose.