DUBLIN - Ireland now has the strictest travel curbs in the EU. It advises citizens against non-essential travel, imposes fines on people heading to airports to go on holiday, and enforces a two-week mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from 50 countries.
Asked about local media reports that ministers are set to agree later on Friday to introduce the so-called EU "green certificate" from July 19, Transport Minister Eamonn Ryan told national broadcaster RTE that it will be in that time frame.
However Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Dublin would not follow British-run Northern Ireland in dropping all travel curbs for arrivals from the rest of the United Kingdom, citing concerns over the rapid spread there of the coronavirus variant first found in India.
"The advice that we have (from health officials), and we're accepting this advice, is that there are real concerns about the Indian variant and for that reason we're not in a position to restore the common travel area (with Britain) just yet," Varadkar told RTE.
The more transmissible variant accounts for 6-7% of cases in Ireland, Ryan said.
Arrivals from Britain currently must quarantine for 14 days. Varadkar said there would continue to be restrictions for arrivals, such as requirements to have a vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test, when Ireland introduces the so-called EU "green certificate".
Ireland does allow free movement across its open border with Northern Ireland, which Varadkar acknowledged meant someone could travel freely to Ireland from Britain via Belfast. This has "been a difficulty" throughout the pandemic, he added.
Ministers will also sign off on a further easing of economic restrictions with a phased reopening of hospitality to begin as planned next month. Varadkar said the government will lay out plans to resume indoor dining and drinking from early July.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Heinrich)