July 22, 2020 / 8:05 AM / 21 days ago

Ireland may tighten travel restrictions for COVID-19 hot spots

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland may introduce further travel restrictions for countries with a very high instance of COVID-19, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Wednesday after the government lifted its 14-day quarantine requirement for 15 European countries.

Ireland, which has one of the lower rates of infection in the European Union with around 5 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days, decided late on Tuesday to drop the restriction for people coming from countries with a similar or lower rate.

Coveney said the government would turn its attention in the coming weeks to whether it should introduce steps beyond the 14-day quarantine from areas hardest hit, including a potential requirement to take a coronavirus test before departure.

“We’re looking at countries that may effectively become hot spots for COVID-19 in the months ahead, or indeed regions within countries, and looking at ways in which we can deal with that risk,” Coveney told national broadcaster RTE.

Arrivals into Ireland from Malta, Finland, Norway, Hungary, Italy, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greenland, Greece, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino no longer have to restrict their movements.

The selection was shorter than many other countries’ “green lists”, including British-run Northern Ireland, which shares an open land border with Ireland where no travel restrictions are imposed.

While Irish travellers returning from the 15 countries will not have to quarantine either, the government took out full-page newspaper advertisements on Wednesday telling people that the safest things to do was not to travel anywhere.

“The message is still clear, the safest thing to do is not to take your holidays abroad, look after your family, spend your money at home and holiday at home,” Coveney said, noting that, while travel to and from Ireland was at around 7-8% of its usual level, 50,000 Irish people were still travelling abroad a week.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alex Richardson

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