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Irish abroad told not to book Christmas at home yet

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has warned Irish people abroad not to book their flights yet.

The Tánaiste compared the situation to the foot and mouth crisis in 1967 when Irish stayed away saying: “I know that’s difficult. I know that’s tough but Christmas is six weeks away and it’s too soon for people to be booking flights to come home.

“In 1967 there was a foot and mouth outbreak in England and people were asked not to come and they didn’t and foot and mouth didn’t come to Ireland.

“I’m not saying it’s the same but certainly we’re not in the position at this point to advise people that it’s safe to come home for Christmas.

“I know that’s a tough message to hear but that is the case at the moment.”

The former Taoiseach was responding during Leaders’ Questions.

It has also been revealed that Irish people planning on returning home to Ireland this Christmas will have to pay up to €200 for a private Covid-19 test if they want to cut the quarantine period.

The Cabinet has agreed that arrivals from EU “red” countries from midnight on 29 November will not have to restrict their movements for the full 14 days if they produce a negative PCR test at least five days after their arrival.
The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is considered the gold standard in testing for Covid-19.

Travellers from “orange” regions will be allowed come into Ireland without restricting their movements as long as they have proof of a negative PCR test that was done no longer than three days before their arrival. Travellers from green regions will not need to restrict their movements when they arrive.

The Government has said it would keep travel from the US under review but the same “red” country arrangements would apply to travellers from there.

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The government had previously stated that it hopes to be able to announce in early December whether people in the UK should travel back for Christmas.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been told of the volume of queries received by the Embassy of Ireland and says it is under review but it is ‘too soon’ to advise people on whether or not they should travel back to see friends and family.

Ireland’s Transport Minister Eamon Ryan told RTE at the week-end that tests will be available at Ireland’s airports and ports by 1 December.

Normally, those Irish people in this country planning travel to Ireland for Christmas will have booked long before now to avoid sky-high peak air and ferry fares. But nothing about this year has been normal. Currently, official Irish government advice on travel to and from Great Britain is to ‘exercise a high degree of caution – and follow local restrictions’.

People who feel they must travel (into Ireland) must complete the online Passenger Locator Form and follow public health guidance, including restricting their movements for 14 days and then comply with the country’s Level 5 restrictions. Level 5 restrictions are in place until 1 December at the earliest.

People arriving in Ireland from green regions can enter without restricting their movements or undergoing testing.
At the beginning of this week there was only one country on the green list: Greenland.

Passengers arriving from Denmark must take additional precautions because of the mutant Covid-19 variant discovered at mink farms and restrict their movements for 14 days upon arrival in Ireland, even those undertaking “essential” journeys.

Ireland’s Transport Minister Eamon Ryan told RTE at the week-end that tests will be available at Ireland’s airports and ports by 1 December.

But, said Mr Ryan, “now is not the time” to advise on Irish people living abroad whether they should plan going to Ireland for Christmas.

“We’ll make that call in early December, not now,” he said on RTE radio.

Last Christmas almost 1.2m people travelled through Dublin Airport between Christmas and New Year.

The government published a statement on international travel that you can read in full below:

The Government has agreed a range of measures for the purposes of aligning arrangements for international travel with the EU ‘traffic light’ approach, categorising regions according to the effectiveness of controls over COVID 19.

Based upon common EU epidemiological data, the ECDC ‘traffic lights’ mapping information is updated every Thursday and the changes are applied with effect to travel to Ireland from the following Monday.

Regions are classified as:

  • green if the 14-day notification rate is lower than 25 cases per 100 000 and the test positivity rate below 4%;
  • orange if the 14-day notification rate is lower than 50 cases per 100 000 but the test positivity rate is 4% or higher or, if the 14-day notification rate is between 25 and 150 cases per 100 000 and the test positivity rate is below 4%;
  • red if the 14-day notification rate is 50 cases per 100 000 or higher and the test positivity rate is 4% or higher or if the 14-day notification rate is higher than 150 cases per 100 000;
  • grey if there is insufficient information or if the testing rate is lower than 300 cases per 100 000.

The current ECDC mapping information reflects an overall escalation of the prevalence of the virus across European locations with some exceptions: Finland, Norway and parts of Greece are recorded as orange. Only Greenland is categorised as a green region as of 5 November.

For persons travelling out of Ireland to regions that are not categorised as green, comprehensive guidance is available at Gov.ie.


  • Persons arriving from EU green regions are not required to restrict their movement but should adhere to the generally applicable public health measures.
  • For persons arriving from EU regions that are not categorised as green the advice to restrict movement for 14 days applies.
  • The advice to restrict movement does not apply in the following instances:
    • Travellers with an essential function or need while exercising this essential function
    • An arrival from an EU orange region subject to the person having a negative/not-detected result from a Covid-19 PCR test taken no more than three days before the day of departure.
    • From midnight 29th November, arrivals from an EU red region will not be expected to restrict movements following receipt of a negative/not-detected result from a Covid-19 PCR test taken a minimum of five days after arrival in Ireland. This provision will also be available to arrivals from orange regions who may not have availed of a pre-departure test.
  • daa will be granted an exemption from planning permission requirements for the purpose of establishing a Covid-19 testing facility at airports.
  • for as long as the ECDC continues to include data for the UK, arrivals from Great Britain are subject to the same traffic light categorisation and restrictions as set out above for EU locations;
  • the approach to third countries, notably the US, will be kept under review – for the present, arrivals from third countries will be treated on the same basis as arrivals from red/grey regions, including exemptions from advice to restrict movements for the purpose of performing an essential function; and
  • the proposed measures for arrivals from orange, red and grey regions, once implemented, will be reviewed fortnightly.

Travellers with an essential function or need are defined in the EU General Affairs Council Recommendation of 13th October (see Appendix 1 below).

It remains a requirement for intending arrivals to Ireland to adhere to the guidance set out in the Air and Maritime Travel Protocols, available on the Department of Transport website, specifically in relation to the enhanced self-declaration of COVID-19 status required pre-boarding, i.e. that:

  1. They are not symptomatic for Covid-19 and have not tested positive in the last 14 days;
  2. They are not a close contact of a confirmed case of Covid-19, and
  3. They have not been advised by doctors to restrict their movement.

It remains a mandatory requirement for arrivals to Ireland (excluding essential transport workers) to correctly complete a Passenger Locator Form.

All arrivals are expected to follow the prevailing public health advice in Ireland upon arrival. The information and guidance concerning public health measures and international travel are available on Gov.ie. Currently, public health advice is that there should be no non-essential international travel.


Notwithstanding the above, until further notice, passengers arriving into Ireland from Denmark (excluding essential supply chain workers) are requested to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival, including those travelling for an essential purpose as defined by Council Recommendation 2020/1475.  Information on self-isolation can be found at:



There are a number of Covid-19 testing technologies currently available or emerging on the commercial market. However, subject to the ongoing review of testing by NPHET and Government, a negative result from a Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is the only test result that means the passenger is not expected to follow advice to restrict movements. Testing technology and delivery options for facilitating international travel will be kept under review.

Testing provision under Ireland’s framework for international travel will not be provided through the public health system, but rather will be met by the private commercial sector testing supply on a user pays basis.  As the availability of testing cannot be guaranteed intending passengers wishing to avail of a test should seek an early appointment for a test in advance of travel

Appendix 1

Paragraph 19 of the EU General Affairs Council Recommendation on a co-ordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the Covid-19 pandemic proposes the following exemptions from quarantine/restricted movement requirements.

Travellers with an essential function or need should not be required to undergo quarantine while exercising this essential function, in particular:

(a) Workers or self-employed persons exercising critical occupations including health care workers, frontier and posted workers as well as seasonal workers as referred to in the Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during the COVID-19 outbreak6;

(b) transport workers or transport service providers, including drivers of freight vehicles carrying goods for use in the territory as well as those merely transiting;

(c) patients travelling for imperative medical reasons;

(d) pupils, students and trainees who travel abroad on a daily basis;

(e) persons travelling for imperative family or business reasons;

(f) diplomats, staff of international organisations and people invited by international organisations whose physical presence is required for the well-functioning of these organisations, military personnel and police officers, and humanitarian aid workers and civil protection personnel in the exercise of their functions;

(g) passengers in transit;

(h) seafarers;

(i) journalists, when performing their duties.


Note that under current practice, Ireland does not require international transport workers (including freight drivers, sea farers and aviation crew) to complete the Passenger Locator Form or restrict movements.

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