Covid-19 ‘green list’: US will not be on it and the UK ‘unlikely’, Coveney says

The Minister says the list is not compiled based on politics, but epidemiological data

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: ‘It is very unlikely our closest neighbour will be under that threshold that we set, that’s really unfortunate.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: ‘It is very unlikely our closest neighbour will be under that threshold that we set, that’s really unfortunate.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The US will definitely not be on the “green list”, which will be name a number of countries deemed safe for Irish people to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, while the UK is unlikely to be on it, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

The list, which is expected to be published in the coming days, will include countries with a similar level of coronavirus to Ireland, and travellers will not need to quarantine.

Mr Coveney said the list is being compiled on the basis of epidemiological data.

“To explain how we’re going to calculate the threshold, which will determine whether a country is on the green list or not. This is not on the basis of politics, it’s on the basis of epidemiological data and numbers so that we can compare Ireland with other countries, and then we can put countries on a green list that we regard as representing no higher risk than Ireland represents,” he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show on Friday.

“In other words travelling to one of these countries is no different than going to Kerry or Connemara or Donegal for your holidays. I think that is what we’re trying to do here.”

Mr Coveney further explained the Government, following public health advice, has to make a judgment call as to what R number is regarded as relatively safe and then apply that to all countries.

“On that basis the US will not be on the green list and it is very unlikely our closest neighbour will be under that threshold that we set – that’s really unfortunate,” he said.

“The two countries that we’d like to open up to in terms of international travel are the UK and the US given the integration between our economy ... and of course the number of visitors that would like to come here, to spend money in hotels and have holidays here and so on.”

Mr Coveney said the numbers of people coming from the US were down between 96 and 98 per cent of what they normally would be with only two to four per cent of the passengers arriving, and most of them were Irish people coming home.

“We’re not simply going to open a green list and that’s it next Monday. If the decision is made by the Government to open a green list on the basis of epidemiological data that we can rely upon, then we are also looking at changing protocols in airports, working with airports to inform people, that there is a much more visible presence reminding people of their obligations when they come to Ireland,” he said.

“We are also exploring the possibility of having testing available in airports for either random testing from non-green list countries or to ensure that testing is available if someone has symptoms.”

The Minister said there isn’t a travel ban in Ireland “to anywhere.” That was the right decision, he said.

“International travel is about seven per cent of what it would normally would be, 93 per cent of traffic isn’t coming – we haven’t a travel ban, what we have is a requirement when anybody who comes into Ireland from any part of the world they are obliged by law to fill out a passenger location form, asked to restrict their movement.

“That sends out signal around the world that Ireland is not open for a normal holiday. If you’re coming to Ireland you have an obligation when you come here, whether you’re an Irish person coming home or whether you’re Irish coming here from elsewhere, that has had an effect of dramatically reducing international travel.”

Mr Coveney said the latest figure he had in relation to follow up calls with passenger locator forms was 63 per cent.

He said the reasons given for that low figure were incorrect numbers and phones not being answered, and these issues were being addressed.

One of the possibilities is moving the process online so that when people book their tickets, when they check in they fill in the passenger locator form and this will give more accurate information, he said.

Mr Coveney said he is going to set up a call centre so there is capacity to ensure everyone gets a follow up call.

“It’s also to make sure people are aware of their responsibilities so that we know where people are in case of a cluster,” he said.