Taoiseach Micheál Martin has raised the possibility of holiday travel within Europe resuming in late July or August if the risks associated with Covid-19 are low enough to allow it.
The Taoiseach said that Ireland will participate in the so-called “EU Digital Passport’ and a high-level group in Government was working on the technology required, as well as working out how to implement it.
He said that as vaccinations programmes increased throughout Europe it could open up possibilities later this summer.
“As Europe vaccinates in sync the travel situation opens up. The US and other countries will also be well advanced at the end of the summer,” he said in an interview on Morning Ireland on RTÉ.
Asked will it mean that holidaymakers will be able to fly to France and Spain in late July and August, he said that the advice was certain for May and June that people should avoid all non-essential travel.
However, he said the situation would open up more in July if transmission rates were in keeping with predictions of them declining.
“We cannot stay disconnected forever. Ireland is a globalised country,” he said.
“We have to assess all the risks as we move forward. Travel resuming towards the latter half of July is a possibility,” he said.
In a separate interview on Newstalk Mr Martin said it might be possible to have an indoor pint by late July, again depending on the extent of vaccination and case numbers.
Asked if fans could have an indoor pint and then go to the All Ireland final (in August), he said: “It’s a possibility. I do not want to be nailing my colours to the mast (but) by that time there will be a significant number of vaccinations,” he said.
It comes after Mr Martin last night confirmed that the widespread reopening of social life and commercial activity would proceed in May and June, with the further restoration of normal life in prospect for July.
The reopening will take place in stages, beginning next Monday and continuing on the following Mondays during May and into June, when hotels will reopen and outdoor hospitality will return.
The Cabinet had agreed to begin lifting a large number of restrictions – including on travel, personal services, retail, outdoor socialising and religious services – in early May.
At the end of the month, the Government will assess whether the reopening should continue in June. If the assessment is positive, hotels will open before the June bank holiday and outdoor hospitality, gyms and sports matches after that. Senior Government sources confirmed that the phased nature of the reopening was designed to enable the State’s vaccine programme to continue reducing the number of people susceptible to the virus.
Last night Leo Varadkar said there was an “emergency brake” if the reopening went wrong.
“If things go off track or go horribly wrong the CMO and Nphet are in a position to say to us that we have to stop or freeze the reopening. I hope that doesn’t happen but it’s there.,” he told Prime Time.
During the course of the RTE interview Mr Martin said the vaccination programme was a key factor in suppressing the virus and had a “transformative effect on the cohorts vaccinated so far.”
He said reopenings, during May in particular, would be cautious and gradual and the Government would have no hesitation in intervening if numbers began to rise.
“In the past we have intervened. We have delayed reopening. We will assess towards the end of May for June and beyond,” he said.
“We will not be afraid to intervene if there are worrying trends in this.”
He did not discount the possibility of county lockdowns but said the National Public Health Emergency Teams’s advice had been a “national approach on management” given the transmissibility of the B117 (UK) variant.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan also has said he expects that international travel will return this year, but not until later in the summer.
Mr Ryan told Newstalk Breakfast that there were many details that needed to be worked out before international travel could resume and he could not give an exact date.
“I expect we will open international travel, but we have to be very careful, as we don’t want to create false expectations. Whether it’s going to visit a friend or family, or for work, or whether for some people it’s for a holiday, when I say open up international travel, it’s for a variety of different purposes.
“I don’t want to give an exact date, as we have to work with our European colleagues in having an international system.”
Mr Ryan estimated that it would be later in the summer and that timelines would be revealed in the next two months.
On the economy Mr Martin reiterated there would be no “cliff-edge” report and said there would be particular supports for the sectors that were harder hit than others. He said the Government would reveal the national economic recovery plan with a new direction and approach towards the end of May.