With the recent announcements made by the Tánaiste stating that August may be the earliest date for non-essential overseas travel to resume, it is no surprise that many commentators have described Ireland as an outlier when it comes to travel restrictions within the EU.
Currently, Ireland is the only member state to have installed a Mandatory Hotel Quarantine regime imposed on arrivals from designated countries within the EU. According to Stephen Donelly, the measure was based upon “public health advice relating to variants of concern with COVID-19”.
Furthermore, the state also legally prohibits citizens from travelling for reasons that are not deemed essential. Individuals can be fined up to two thousand euros under the S.I (Statutory Instruments) No.217 and No. 219 of 2021 Health Act 1947.
Such a measure has had a considerable impact on Ireland’s European and international community since there is no clear pathway for the return of international travel despite the Commission’s proposal to implement digital green certificates across the EU.
The European Commission clearly states that the green certificate is digital proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19. Such a tool has the objective to facilitate free movement within the European Union but also guarantees that it will not be a precondition for entering a designated member state.
The summer period offers an opportunity to revive the European tourism industry and the possibility for European workers to get reunited with their families all across the continent. While it is clear that the EU digital green certificate has a strong economic purpose, the social and humanitarian reasons should also be considered for those who have been unable to go back to their home country since the start of the pandemic.
As a small island open economy fully integrated into the EU’s single market, it is fair to say that Irish aviation depends on the freedom of movement of persons across the EU. Although the lack of a roadmap towards international travel is being felt across all sectors of Irish society, the aviation industry has been the hardest hit where Aer Lingus recently announced that it will permanently close its Shannon base.
Independent organisations such as Recover Irish Aviation have been pointing out that “230 families in Cork and Shannon are now paying the price of Government inaction” and that the 144,000 jobs in the Irish aviation sector will be at risk if the Government goes along with the status quo.
Furthermore, Irish aviation places a strong emphasis on the importance of air transport for Ireland’s economic output by focusing on three sectors such as jobs and spending generated by airlines and their supply chains, the flows of trade and tourism. Overall, Ireland is considered as an outlier for the fact that there is a lack of financial support for airlines and being the only EU member state to impose MHQ.
Reputational risk is also at stake if Ireland continues to operate a conservative approach when it comes to international travel and free movement across the European continent. It is particularly surprising that in a post-Brexit context, Ireland does not seek to formally extend ties with its closest EU neighbours. Policies such as MHQ prove to be unpopular with international workers coming to contribute towards the Irish economy and those sentiments may seem to increase in the long run if Ireland does not seek to tackle those problems immediately.