Experts warn publication of travel ‘green list’ will create confusion

‘Green means go’: Labour says Government has got the messaging on this list ‘all wrong’

Ireland is set to publish a list of safe countries to travel to but Government advice remains that all unnecessary international travel should be avoided. Photograph: iStock

Ireland is set to publish a list of safe countries to travel to but Government advice remains that all unnecessary international travel should be avoided. Photograph: iStock

 

Experts have warned that a so-called “green list” of countries deemed comparatively safe in terms of Covid-19 infection spread will confuse people who might consider the list as informal permission to travel.

On Monday Labour’s transport spokesman Duncan Smith said the Government’s approach was problematic.

“Green means go. They’ve gotten the messaging all wrong,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, stressing the need for Ireland not to go backwards in terms of its control of the virus.

The list will include countries with similar coronavirus infection rates to Ireland travel restrictions to these countries will be eased.

Travellers returning from those countries will not have to self-isolate for 14 days.

However, higher coronavirus infection rates in the popular holiday destinations of Spain, Portugal, Britain and France means these countries are unlikely to be included.

The Government is continuing to warn against non-essential overseas trips.

It said the green list was being prepared for those who cannot avoid essential travel and will be kept under regular review.

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.

Tensions have grown between the three coalition parties over the publication of the list.

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.

Intensive care consultant Dr Catherine Motherway said on Monday that clarity on the issue was needed.

“I can see why people would find the ‘green list’ confusing,” she said. “If you don’t have to travel, you shouldn’t travel.”

Dr Motherway said she understood this was going to be difficult for the tourism industry and said this year people needed to support the travel industry in Ireland and holiday at home.

Increase

However, Dr Jack Lambert, consultant in infectious diseases, said there is a need for a list of the type that already exists elsewhere in the EU.

“People are coming into Ireland whether we like it or not,” he told Today with Sarah McInerney.

“We actually need to have a plan because Covid is not a short-term problem, it’s going to be a long-term problem; we need to come up with long term solutions.”

Given the potential longevity of the pandemic, Dr Lambert argued for an approach that might include green and red zones, or areas of differing risk for travel.

“We need to come up with a proactive plan for Ireland that makes sense from a safety standpoint, from a psychological standpoint, and from an economic standpoint.”

He said just 12 per cent of current Covid-19 cases in Ireland are imported.

However, on the same programme, south Dublin GP Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail said the creation of a the list could create confusion.

He said on top of a list of supposedly safe countries and a contradictory appeal not to travel, “we are then being bombarded with ads” from Ryanair on over 1,000 available destinations.

“What I am seeing in my surgery is people that are completely confused. I’m confused. It’s a completely mixed message...it needs to be simplified,” he said.

He said overseas holidays should not be taken and essential travel could be clarified to personal or business emergencies, such as visiting a sick relative living abroad.

Meanwhile, as frustration mounts over the delay in its publication, political tensions have also grown between the three coalition parties.

It is understood the list, when eventually published, will include a very limited number of countries.