Coronavirus: Efforts ongoing to bring home 1,000 Irish from 86 countries

‘Fast moving and volatile’ situation sees entire regions closed off at short notice

The Government has pledged to leave “no stone unturned” in attempts to repatriate Irish citizens but has warned that the situation is “fast moving and volatile.”

Assistant secretary general in the Department of Taoiseach Liz Canavan said the Government was trying to get 1,000 citizens home from 86 countries.

“Where commercial flights are still available, the Department of Foreign Affairs has recommended that people who are away and wish to come home do so as soon as possible. The situation is fast moving and volatile. What we have seen is not only countries, but entire regions, close off airspace and ground airlines at short notice,” she said.

"This has led to people who have confirmed and booked flights having them canceled suddenly or refused at airports. Currently the department is trying to help over 1,000 of our citizens in 86 countries who are seeking assistance to return to Ireland.


"Many are small groups but there are some larger numbers in Australia and a couple of hundred in New Zealand. They are in ongoing contact with airlines and aviation companies and exploring all the options but the situation is not simple."

But she warned that “it is not as simple as chartering flights.”

Speaking at the Government’s Covid-19 update on Friday she said the department has to seek permission to enter airspace and regions on the way back to Ireland which is complicating the process.

“We are therefore focused on getting every possible Irish citizen on the shrinking number of commercial flights. The department is also working very closely with the EU and European countries, especially the UK, to get Irish groups on their flights.

“We are leaving no stone unturned and trying to get people home. Citizens should contact the nearest embassy or consulate to update them on their situation and they should closely follow information provided on the embassy Twitter account.”

Any Irish citizen who believes that an embassy may not be aware of their presence and wants to get home has been advised register online at and email their contact information.

Ms Canavan also provided further updates on the Government’s handling of the crisis. She said there has been some confusion about diabetes and the level of risk it poses in terms of Covid 19.

“If you are a diabetic and you are concerned, you should seek advice from your GP. Please remember to call your GP and not to go in person,” she said.

On Garda vetting, Ms Canavan said 5,500 applications have been expedited by Garda national vetting bureau since March 12th.

Nearly 2,000 of these were for the HSE, 1,600 for the national recruitment federation for medically related staff, 900 for nursing homes and over 800 for independent hospitals, health care agencies and the volunteers sector.

On State exams, Ms Canavan said the Minister for Education is working on contingency plans to allow these to go ahead.

Any final decision by the Government will be made based on the public health advice, she said.

In terms of welfare measures, those over 66 who are in receipt of the State pension but who are employed and have lost that employment have been told they are eligible to be included in the temporary wage subsidy scheme.

The Government has also received queries about apprentices.

Ms Canavan said apprentices who are on the job with employers and who have subsequently lost work will receive the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment. Those in off the job training will continue to receive their training allowance to the State with no loss of income.

Separately, some 1,500 calls have been made to community help lines that assist with delivery of foods and medicines.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times