Stay or go? Here's what the experts are saying about travelling abroad this summer 1 month ago

Stay or go? Here's what the experts are saying about travelling abroad this summer

Considering booking a flight?

First thing's first: there is plenty of contradictory advice out there for whether it's safe or not to travel abroad this summer.

And while it may be tempting to ignore sound advice and make plans according to those whose beliefs suit our plans, during these uncertain times, we should always take the advice of the experts.

In short, the government is currently advising against all non-essential travel - but what do we know so far about travelling overseas during Covid, and when will we find out more about the so-called "air-bridges"?

Travelling for holidays 

Dr Tony Holohan has repeatedly stated that Irish people should not be travelling abroad for holidays this summer.

Earlier this week, Ryanair resumed a substantial number of flights for passengers in the UK, Ireland, and across Europe. Before stepping away from his duties, the Chief Medical Officer said that despite this, people should cancel their holidays to ensure the virus does not continue to spread.

"We’d like people not to travel, yes," Dr Holohan said.

“It makes much more sense to not go ahead with that booking and to risk travelling abroad, picking up this infection. [It's a] risk for you, for any family member you be travelling with or indeed any close contacts you have.

"I think that would be not just in your individual interest but in our collective interest.”

Similarly, The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised against all non-essential travel from the island of Ireland until further notice. "This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship," they said.

Contrary to this, Dr Jack Lambert, a professor of medicine at the Mater Hospital, has said that he believes it is safe to travel abroad - as long as all safety measures are adhered to and the country in question is not experiencing a Covid surge.

"Would I go to Iceland, Slovenia, Greece? Absolutely," he told Morning Ireland.

"I'd probably think it's safer to go there than to a city centre in Ireland at this time, because Covid is still circulating in the community in small numbers."

It is worth noting too, that due to the recently resuming of flights across Europe, cancelling a holiday now will likely not entitled you to a refund.

Travelling to see family 

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have been left separated from their family and loved ones.

The vast majority of those will have resided in Ireland, but there are countless others who have either been stuck in the country awaiting the chance to go home, or waiting until it is safe to go visit loved one elsewhere.

As mentioned above, both the HSE and the Department of Foreign Affairs have advised against all non-essential travel, however there are many instances why a person may need to travel abroad for essential reasons, such as to look after an ill family member.

Coronavirus

The government will be publishing a roadmap for safe travel to and from certain EU countries using air-bridges soon, however, it is not yet known when these recommendations will come into effect.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told RTÉ that the issue is a difficult one to address due to the consistently changing situations in other countries.

"While the commitment was made to publish a framework list of air bridges to other countries on 9 July, there is no date as to when those air corridors will be activated," he said.

"Two weeks ago Portugal had a very low rate of infection close to ours, but it has now had a spike. We have to do all we can to minimise the risk of a second surge here."

It is also worth noting that anybody who does travel abroad from Ireland is advised to quarantine for 14 days upon their return. The government has yet to make this a mandatory rule for travellers.

Travelling for work 

While all non-essential travel is advised against, travel for essential business or work purposes is to be expected over the coming months.

According to the HSE, those who travel to and from Ireland for essential work purposes should follow the public health advice and quarantine for 14 days.

"If you travel here for essential work and this expertise is not available locally, you will need to follow public health advice when not conducting your work," they said.

"If you travel overseas from Ireland for essential work, you will need to follow public health advice when you return."

For those travelling abroad, new strict health and safety protocols have been issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Aer Lingus has implemented new measures including mandatory face coverings for all staff and passengers, as well as enhanced cleaning and air filtering methods. Retail and refreshment services have also been suspended on European flights.

Ryanair has made face masks mandatory on flights, and enhanced their overnight cleaning methods.

In short, the government has advised against travelling abroad unless you absolutely need to.

An update on this position is expected in the coming weeks, but until then, you'd probably be better off not booking any trips - unless absolutely necessary.