June 4, 2020 / 1:21 PM / a month ago

'Summer is not yet lost', Irish PM backs air bridges

Ireland's Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Government Buildings in Dublin, Ireland March 24, 2020. Steve Humphreys/Pool via REUTERS/Files

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland hopes to be able to recommend the resumption of air travel with a select number of countries in a number of weeks, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday, telling prospective holidaymakers “summer is not yet lost.”

Some European countries such as Germany, Spain and Austria plan to lift coronavirus-related border restrictions with neighbouring countries this month, something Ireland has been more cautious about as it slowly reopens its economy.

Ireland requires anyone entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days and foresees making its first step back to non-essential travel via so-called “air bridges” with other countries who share low levels of coronavirus infection.

“I hope that as the world returns to a new normality, we will see international air travel resume, in the first instance through air bridges with countries that have suppressed the virus to a similar extent as ours,” Varadkar told parliament.

“This however is some weeks away and it’s far too soon for anyone to book their holidays yet but summer is not yet lost.”

Ireland has reported 1,659 deaths related to just over 25,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes. The number of cases, deaths and admissions to hospital have all been falling in recent weeks.

The government will review the 14-day quarantine for travellers on June 18. Airlines, in particular Ireland’s Ryanair, have pushed back strongly against the rules that they say are impossible to implement.

Varadkar also reiterated on Thursday that he hopes to announce a speeding up of the reopening plan on Friday ahead of entering the second of five phases next week.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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