Covid: International travel may return before August, Coveney says

Cabinet will bring clarity to the issue next week, Minister tells Fine Gael meeting

International travel may return before August, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has told a private Fine Gael meeting.

Sources at Wednesday night’s parliamentary party meeting say Mr Coveney said estimates given by Leo Varadkar about international travel not returning until at least August could be seen as being conservative.

Mr Coveney told TDs and Senators that “it may happen before then”. He said, however, that instead of over-promising and under delivering for the public on this, the Government should aim to do the opposite. He also said the Cabinet will bring significant clarity to the issue next week.

Mr Coveney said that by the end of June the EU green pass process will be signed off on. Member states will have six weeks then to put this new travel scheme into operation.

Super Junior Minister for International and Road Transport Hildegarde Naughton also told the meeting it would be “good news” if international travel could resume before August, but she cautioned it will take time before people feel comfortable flying again.

The Cabinet will outline a roadmap for aviation and the resumption of international travel next week.

The Government statement will also include plans for the future of mandatory hotel quarantine as well as sports and entertainment as part of the next phase of reopening for June and July.

On Wednesday, EU member states agreed to ease Covid-19 travel restrictions on non-EU visitors ahead of the summer tourist season.

EU countries approved a European Commission proposal to loosen the criteria to determine “safe” countries and to let in fully vaccinated tourists from elsewhere, EU sources said.

They are expected to set a new list this week or early next week. Under the plan, EU countries would admit fully jabbed visitors from outside the bloc for non-essential travel, according to a copy of the proposals seen by the Financial Times.

Visitors would need to have received their final dose of a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency – BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson – at least 14 days before arrival in the EU.