Ireland

Irishman in Malta not surprised by green list change

Irish Travel Agents Association says there is little demand for international travel

Irishman Shaun McCarthy normally likes to travel home to Dublin at least once a year. Photograph: Courtesy Shaun McCarthy

Irishman Shaun McCarthy normally likes to travel home to Dublin at least once a year. Photograph: Courtesy Shaun McCarthy

Shaun McCarthy should have flown into Ireland to visit family and friends on Wednesday morning. He should also have been at the weddings of his son and daughter over the weekend but, in the end, everything was postponed.

Originally from Walkinstown in Dublin but now living in Malta, any return trip home seems unlikely for some time to come.

Added to general Covid-19 frustrations, Malta was one of five countries removed from the Irish “green list” from where travellers do not have to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival.

“There is no way I would go now if you had to spend 14 days quarantining,” Mr McCarthy said just a few hours after his Aer Lingus flight would have touched down in Dublin. “My own personal view is that you don’t travel unless you have to.”

Mr McCarthy (77) said he was half expecting the removal of Malta from the list and, following the news on Tuesday evening, it came to pass.

“The general reaction was: there you go. We are not going [home] at the moment,” he said.

“A lot of our members [in Malta’s Irish Emerald Society] would be always going to Ireland, some two or three times a year. I still like to go minimum once a year.”

As an Irishman abroad, he hopes to return home in 2021 instead. On Saturday his son Stephen was due to marry, followed by his daughter Tara on Monday. Both weddings in Manchester were postponed until next summer.

As for life on the Mediterranean island, Mr McCarthy said that while until very recently they felt they had things under control, Covid cases had shot up to more than 200, fuelled by an increase in crowded events.

Asked about the removal of Malta from the green list, the country’s ambassador to Ireland Leonard Sacco said the matter was “a sovereign decision of the Irish Government, which Malta respects”.

Low infection rate

Gibraltar, another of the five countries removed from the list alongside Cyprus, Monaco and San Marino, pointed to its low infection rate.

A Gibraltar government spokesman said “currently only four residents are infected. However, it is not currently possible to get from Gibraltar by air to Ireland without going through the UK or Spain, which would require a quarantine anyway”.

Official statistics from the country show a total of 189 confirmed cases of Covid-19 from 22,601 tests, representing a 0.8 per cent positivity rate. Active cases in the country are made up of four residents and two visitors.

Meanwhile, the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) said the removal of the five countries would not have a material effect on the sector as there was little demand for international travel amid low levels of consumer confidence.

It noted that bookings to Malta and Cyprus in particular were “not significant”.

“Although consumer confidence in international travel is expected to remain low for the rest of the year, there is evidence to suggest a large pent-up demand for travel in 2021 which could work to repair some of the damage suffered by the Irish travel industry as a result of the worldwide pandemic,” it said.

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