Publication of travel ‘green list’ delayed as tensions grow within coalition

Parties divided over publication of list of countries while advising public not to travel

Government sources  confirmed the green list would be reduced to a “very limited” number of countries when it is finalised at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. File photograph: Getty

Government sources confirmed the green list would be reduced to a “very limited” number of countries when it is finalised at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. File photograph: Getty

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Tensions have grown between the three coalition parties over the publication of a “green list” of countries deemed as safe to travel to during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government sources last night confirmed that the list would be reduced to a “very limited” number of countries when it is finalised at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

An announcement had been due to be made today but was deferred for 24 hours once it became known that Taoiseach Micheál Martin was not expected to return from an EU summit in Brussels until this evening.

Mr Martin will not have to undergo quarantine upon his arrival in Dublin as Government Ministers are exempt from the rule, though he is required to take a Covid-19 test when leaving Ireland and on his return.

The status of the green list has been downgraded following differences between Fine Gael Ministers and their Fianna Fáil and Green colleagues about the advisability of publishing the list when coronavirus infections are increasing in Ireland and other European countries. People arriving from the countries included will not face a requirement for a 14-day quarantine period.

Some Ministers pointed to a contradiction with the public being advised against non-essential travel to prevent Covid-19 cases being imported, yet the Government was still publishing a list of countries not subject to the quarantine rule.

The State’s National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has advised people not to take unnecessary travel overseas and to holiday at home this summer. The issue dominated discussions at last Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, with Fianna Fáil and Green Ministers expressing concern about whether its publication was appropriate at this time.

One Minister said the list was “seen very much as a legacy” of the last Fine Gael government. “Neither of our parties feel all that comfortable with it given the less positive outlook we are now faced with,” said the source.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin will not have to undergo quarantine upon his arrival back from the European Union summit in Brussels. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Micheál Martin will not have to undergo quarantine upon his arrival back from the European Union summit in Brussels. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

“We are in a situation where we are getting resistance from Irish people to domestic visitors arriving at their doorstep, let alone about visitors from abroad. In light of that, Fianna Fáil and the Greens have looked for a cautious approach.”

Fine Gael insisted there was no divergence with the other Government parties. A spokesman for the party said the list would be based on the latest medical advice. “There are very clear criteria for travelling abroad. The decision will be based on whatever the data will be at the end of the day,” he said.

The list is expected to feature fewer than 20 countries and will not include popular destinations for Irish tourists such as the United States, Britain, France, Spain or Portugal.

Irish Travel Agents Association chief executive Pat Dawson said the list was “meaningless” as people would still not travel as insurance remained invalid under the non-essential travel guidance.He criticised the continued reliance on “celebrity doctors” when the latest cases show travel accounts for only a small number of new infections.

NPHET reported no new deaths from the virus yesterday, leaving the death toll at 1,753. Ten new Covid-19 infections were reported, bringing total known cases to 25,760.

Early findings from blood tests taken from more than 2,000 people in Dublin and Sligo in a Health Service Executive study over the past month indicate that the vast majority of the Irish public are still vulnerable to catching Covid-19.

Sample testing for antibodies against the disease in healthy people shows that less than 5 per cent of the population has been exposed to the disease, far short of building any herd immunity against future infection.

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