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Government to consider easing travel restrictions by end of month

Mr Varadkar also said that people have the constitutional right as EU citizens to travel freely between the UK and Ireland.

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A notice for arriving passengers regarding the Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)

A notice for arriving passengers regarding the Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)

A notice for arriving passengers regarding the Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Government is considering easing travel restrictions by the end of the month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

He warned, however, that no-one should come to or leave Ireland for the purpose of tourism as the travel restrictions remain in place.

Speaking at a post-cabinet press briefing in Dublin on Friday, he said this advice will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.

“Several European countries have reopened their borders and resumed flights, we’re not going to do that yet,” he said.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

“The decision here in Ireland is that travel restrictions remain in place.

“Nobody should leave Ireland for the purpose of tourism and nobody should come to Ireland for the purpose of tourism or leisure.

“If anyone is coming here for an essential journey, they are required to fill a passenger location form and are advised to self-isolate for 14 days. That is not going to change for now. We will review the situation in two weeks’ time when we see how the situation has developed in other countries.”

Another three people with Covid-19 have died in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team said on Friday, bringing the overall toll to 1,705.

A total of 13 new cases were confirmed, increasing the overall tally to 25,250.

Mr Varadkar also said that people have the constitutional right as EU citizens to travel freely between the UK and Ireland, but stressed that there is a public health emergency.

Describing it as an “unusual situation”, Mr Varadkar added that in public health emergencies, EU member states can make their own rules.

He added: “We want to be in a position to agree air bridges to allow travel between Ireland and other countries where the virus is also successfully suppressed but we think that Monday June 15 is far too soon for us to do that.

“We are going to see what is possible and we will talk to our colleagues in the UK and the administration in Northern Ireland about the situation in two weeks’ time but our advice on travel remains the same.”

The Taoiseach also said that moving from two-metre social distancing to one-metre distancing is a risk, but not as big a risk as it was a few weeks ago.

He said: “If we are going to go from two metres to one, that is a risk. It is not going to be as big a risk as it was two weeks ago because the number of cases are now so low. We are looking at the issue in the round and seeing what the health implications will be for employment and in schools and so on.”

A new campaign to inform people to wear a face mask in enclosed settings is being launched on Monday.

Meanwhile, it also emerged that primary schools may reopen for one day per week in September if the two-metre social-distancing guidelines remain in place.

Education Minister Joe McHugh said that secondary school pupils would attend school for two days per week while they engage in “blended learning” from home on the other days of the week.

Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing in Dublin on Friday, he said it remains the Government’s goal to get all pupils back to school in September as they have been closed since March.

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John Crowley (right), first in line oustide Arnotts department store on Henry Street in Dublin, as it reopens for the first time after lockdown restrictions were eased in the Republic of Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

John Crowley (right), first in line oustide Arnotts department store on Henry Street in Dublin, as it reopens for the first time after lockdown restrictions were eased in the Republic of Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

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John Crowley (right), first in line oustide Arnotts department store on Henry Street in Dublin, as it reopens for the first time after lockdown restrictions were eased in the Republic of Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

Elsewhere, Ireland’s chief medical officer said that different measures will be taken in the event of a second surge in coronavirus cases, rather than the implementation of a full lockdown.

Dr Tony Holohan said the country knows a lot more about Covid-19 than it did in March when lockdown measures and restrictions were first introduced.

He said if there was a second wave or resurgence of the disease, the same measures would not need to be taken.

“I wouldn’t be anticipating at this point in time that we would be moving back to blanket closures in the way we did in March,” he said.

“What we what we will be doing over the next couple of weeks is meeting with NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) and looking at a scenario where we have a resurgence of the disease, what measures we will take or what would be appropriate,” Dr Holohan told RTE radio.

“If a resurgence of the disease happened or a second wave, we would know what specific measures to take, having done our work proactively.

“The population’s behaviour is very different now than it was in March and people understand more about the disease and the risks and how they can protect themselves when it comes to hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.”

Travellers in Dublin and Cork Airport will be asked to wear face masks from next Tuesday, while anyone not taking a flight will be advised to not enter the terminal buildings.

Chief communications officer with the Dublin Airport Authority, Paul O’Kane, said airports are getting prepared for a surge in travellers.

He told Newstalk FM: “We’re working now to get organised and get planned for when passenger numbers will ramp up, ’cause they will ramp up in the future.

“We’re strongly recommending that face masks or face coverings are worn by passengers in all buildings, we also have a strong recommendation for our staff to wear face masks – those’ll be mandatory in some areas.”

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