Government extends time frame to return from Spain until Saturday

Department of Foreign Affairs advises against all travel to Germany unless resident

Tánaiste Simon Coveney had originally called on holidaymakers in Spain who want to fly home to do so by  Thursday.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney had originally called on holidaymakers in Spain who want to fly home to do so by Thursday.

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The Government has extended its time frame for Irish tourists in Spain to travel home until this Saturday in order to deal with the large numbers attempting to leave the region, which has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney had originally called on holidaymakers in Spain who want to fly home to do so by midnight Thursday, warning travel restrictions by other governments could soon make it impossible to return in a timely fashion.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday that the time frame was extended to Saturday. The plan is being worked on by airlines including Ryanair and Air Lingus in conjunction with Spanish authorities.

Neither airline responded to a request for comment on the numbers so far repatriated in so-called “rescue flights” since Mr Coveney made the appeal to tourists.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised against all non-essential travel overseas until at least March 29th, but on Wednesday night issued a fresh directive advising Irish citizens to avoid travel to Germany unless legally resident there.

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It said it was issuing the directive on the basis of advice received from the German authorities. “We also recommend against transit through Germany by air unless you are returning to Ireland,” it added.

Passport Office

The spokeswoman for the department said its dedicated number for those with consular queries from abroad was dealing with at least 1,000 calls a day, but that keeping an exact track of the numbers was proving challenging given the volume.

She said all staff at the Passport Office had been redeployed to assist with consular services.

It has also emerged that many Irish holidaymakers could be left facing huge losses on cancelled holidays in the weeks and months ahead as a result of clauses in the fine print of travel insurance documents.

These clauses invalidate cover in circumstances such as the one people are now being forced to confront.

Some companies have started activating exclusion clauses buried deep in their terms and conditions, which exclude cover in the event that the World Health Organisation has declared a pandemic as has been the case in recent days.

Insurance exclusion

Travel insurance companies in Ireland, the UK and across the world have also been racing to protect themselves from a massive volume of potentially crippling claims by excluding cover connected to Covid-19 on future policies.

Some companies are also dropping cover in the event that airlines are no longer in a position to fly to a particular destination.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ryanair announced that it would ground most, if not all, of its flights by next Tuesday, adding that between now and then its flight schedules would be cut by more than 80 per cent.

The budget airline issued a statement at lunchtime on Wednesday, noting that all but a “very small number of flights to maintain essential connectivity, mostly between the UK and Ireland” would be cancelled from midnight on Tuesday.