Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.42 10 Mar 2020


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Tánaiste Simon Coveney says most flights from Italy to Ireland are "pretty empty" due to the coronavirus outbreak there.

However, he says the Taoiseach will be raising the issue of whether there should be more air travel restrictions within the EU when he speaks to other leaders today.

All of Italy is in partial lockdown from this morning, with severe travel restrictions in place and public gatherings banned due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Ryanair has this afternoon announced it will suspend all its Italian flights for almost a month.

Domestic Italian flights will be suspended from tomorrow until Wednesday 8th April, while international flights will be suspended from Friday.

The airline said any passengers seeking repatriation can obtain a "free move" to an earlier Ryanair flight operating up until midnight Friday.

The European Council will hold a video conference this evening as EU leaders work on a bloc-wide response to the coronavirus outbreak.

'Totally unprecedented'

This morning, Tánaiste Simon Coveney confirmed Irish citizens are now being advised not to visit Italy unless it's essential to do so - a situation he has described as "totally unprecedented".

He told The Pat Kenny Show: "I don't ever recall a time when a foreign minister has essentially been advising people not to travel to another EU member state unless absolutely necessary... these are unprecedented times."

On the subject of flights between Ireland and Italy, Minister Coveney said it's likely we will see more airlines cancelling services to and from the country in the coming days.

Flights are continuing for the moment, but the Tánaiste observed: "I think you'll find most of those flights are pretty empty.

"The Taoiseach is on a European Council conference call with all other EU leaders today, and the first thing he's going to be raising is whether the EU collectively should do more in terms of air travel and air travel restrictions.

"Very few people are moving at all in Italy and flying out of Italy now, and very few Irish people will be travelling to Italy also."

At the moment, public health officials are not advising mass school closures - with only a small number of schools in the country currently closed temporarily due to confirmed cases in the school community.

Minister Coveney said: "This is a challenge that changes by the day.

"We could look at, for example, extended Easter holidays - but I'm not going to make decisions as a politician and policy-maker unless I have the advice based on what is best practice."

Main image: File photo of Simon Coveney. Picture by: Brian Lawless/PA Archive/PA Images

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