Ireland's travel `green list' under review, minister says

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s “green list” of countries exempt from travel restrictions is under review after a spike in Irish COVID-19 cases made adding countries with a similar or slightly better incidence rate too risky, the country’s health minister said.

Ireland dropped a 14-day quarantine requirement for arrivals from an initial list of 15 European countries in late July and cut that down to 10 on Aug. 4, when an increase in cases in the likes of Malta and Cyprus struck them off the list.

More countries were due to be added or removed every two weeks, but the list has not been amended since Ireland’s 14-day cumulative cases per 100,000 of population rose above 30 from around three cases when the measure was introduced.

“If we essentially pegged the countries that qualify to our own rate, we would have something perverse happening, which is as the prevalence of COVID increased in Ireland, we would be opening ourselves up to more and more countries with high rates of COVID,” Stephen Donnelly told the Newstalk radio station.

“If we were simply to do that, it would self-evidently lead to a higher spread of the virus in the country. That’s why we have it under review at the moment.”

The government’s initial plan was to judge whether to ease quarantine restrictions based on the number of new COVID-19 cases, the trend and the quality of testing and tracing in qualifying countries.

Nine European countries not on the list currently have a lower 14-day case rate than Ireland. They include Britain, Germany and Sweden, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Irish airline Ryanair initiated legal proceedings against the government in late July, questioning the legality of travel restrictions.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Larry King