Cabinet deferred removal of Greece from travel green list

Decision was due to concern that additional changes would have confused the public

The Government has deferred the removal of Greece from the travel "green list" and has asked the State's public health team to re-examine the overall travel advice.

Sources have also confirmed that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly intends to bring a paper to Cabinet as early as next week with proposals to restrict non-essential travel from countries with high levels of coronavirus infections.

The National Public Health Emergency Team has called for this measure to be introduced on at least two occasions.

At a “tense” Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, proposals were brought from the Department of Taoiseach to remove Greece from the green list due to the “deteriorating domestic situation” there.

Ministers also noted that there was a 14-day incidence rate of 22.5 cases per 100,000 in the country.

However, the Cabinet decided to defer the removal of Greece and any other changes to the green list over fears that it would present a confusing message to the public.

Political sources pointed out that the 14-day cumulative cases per 100,000 of population in Ireland is now 26 and that many European countries are currently experiencing a similar surge in Covid cases.

“We were not expecting to be at this level of cases when the green list was first envisaged. If we were to apply the same logic, which was that anywhere with above five cases per 100,000 would be off the list, there would be only two countries on the green list now.”

On this basis the Government will asked the NPHET to “re-think” the Green List and give a public health opinion on its continued operation.

Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention are used by the Government for deciding which countries should be on the so-called green list for travel purposes.

People coming here from countries that are on the list are not being asked to go into quarantine for 14 days.

However, the Government’s general advice is that people should not travel abroad unless it is necessary to do so.

When the list was first drafted, the Republic’s infection rate was approximately five per 100,000.

Meanwhile the Government will consider as early as next week proposals to restrict or ban non-essential from countries with high levels of Covid infections, sources have confirmed.

This could see new travel advice for areas like the US or other countries experiencing second waves of the virus.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times