Against a background of rising infection rates across Europe and the Americas, the re-imposition of lockdowns, economic uncertainty, and falling travel demand, last week’s good news on a vaccine breakthrough is a cause for some cautious optimism, according to the latest bulletin from ITIC.
'The preliminary results from Pfizer and Moderna trials suggest a Covid-19 vaccine may be going to regulators for emergency approval by the end of the year if all goes well. Encouragingly up to 10 other vaccines are in late stage trials giving genuine hope that vaccinations will be available widely to the public at some point during 2021.
On the travel front forecasts of a return to pre-COVID levels of international travel have been progressively pushed out, with IATA pointing to 2024/25, while the EUROCONTROL’s latest forecast range from the most optimistic based on the mass availability of a vaccine of a return to 2019 levels by 2024 with the most pessimistic scenario being an eight year recovery to 2029. International tourism is facing a long road to recovery, despite a strong consumer desire to travel tempered by heath safety concerns, changing consumer values, travel patterns and behaviour. In the short term a restart of discretionary travel requires a reliable pre-flight testing and a robust tracking regime.
In an Irish context as tourism businesses struggle to survive and reduce cash burn, following a devastating 2020 leading into 2021, further government financial supports is likely to be needed if a significant number of business failures and increased unemployment is to be avoided. Failure to protect tourism’s business infrastructure and expertise will result in a diminished visitor offering and will be a serious blow to Ireland’s competitiveness in the international marketplace.
Ireland has adopted the EU approach with effect from midnight November 08, 2020, based on the metrics of a 14 day COVID-19 incidence rate and a test positivity measure, as follows:
Those arriving from GREEN regions can enter the State without being expected to restrict movement or undergo testing for COVID-19
Passengers from ORANGE regions who have a negative PCR test result for Covid-19 from a test taken up to three days before arrival are advised that they do not need to restrict movements
Those arriving from RED regions must continue to restrict movements for fourteen days. However from November 29th this requirement is waived if a Covid negative test result is secured on Day 5.
In addition passengers arriving into Ireland from Denmark are advised of the need to take additional precautions and follow the existing guidance to restrict movement for a period of 14 days following their arrival aimed at limiting the spread of the newly discovered virus variant in Denmark of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The new system is intended to bring greater consistency and transparency across Europe. Currently Greenland is the only area within the green categorisation, while parts of Greece, Norway and Finland are in the orange category. A fortnightly review and update process has been put in place.
The EU proposal is that passengers travelling on certain essential functions are not advised to restrict movements. This includes essential workers, journeys for imperative business or family reasons (for example, attending a funeral), essential medical reasons for travel.
Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports have all recently provided testing facilities to help hasten the safe commencement of international travel.