Coronavirus: Non-essential travel from US set to be banned within days

Brazil is also due to be targeted as part of State’s so-called red list of Covid-19 hotspots

Non-essential travel to the State from the US and other Covid-19 hotspots is set to be banned within days as the Republic moves to align itself with other EU states by introducing travel restrictions on countries where the virus continues to spread rapidly.

Although the so-called red list of countries from which all but essential travel will be prohibited will not be published until Friday at the earliest, Government sources have indicated that the US and Brazil will be included on it, while other EU countries and the UK will not.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn and senior officials at the Department of Health have held several meetings on the restrictions, and the issue has been discussed at Cabinet, where preliminary proposals were given an informal go-ahead.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has supported such steps for weeks and Mr Donnelly is understood to be anxious to move on the issue quickly to shut off another route through which Covid-19 can spread.

Irish citizens and residents who are coming home, as well as EU citizens and essential workers or those who are travelling for reasons which are deemed essential, will be exempt from any bans.

While the percentage of cases of the illness linked to international travel is currently small and the numbers coming into the country from international hotspots relatively minor, the Minister believes more needs to be done to contain the virus from being imported into Ireland from countries where transmission is widespread.

Similar bans

The new measures will see the State fall into line with other EU countries that have had similar travel bans in place for months.

“These proposals are solely being developed for third countries outside the EU/EEA/UK and will be brought to Government for consideration,” a spokeswoman for the Minister confirmed.

“While the number of cases of Covid-19 detected among travellers from overseas has been very low, the Minister for Health is concerned about the growth in cases in some countries,” she said.

She stressed that there “are no plans to make any changes to the current operation of the green list, which is already reviewed every two weeks”.

The travel restrictions would not necessarily see the number of flights to and from affected locations reduced, and lucrative freight business on transatlantic routes will also see planes to and from US destinations continuing to service Dublin Airport.