Michael Staines
Michael Staines

14.50 25 Mar 2020


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The Government is trying to help over 2,000 Irish people return home from 86 countries around the world.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the majority are in Australia and New Zealand – with the rest in small groups in other countries.

A spokesperson said officials are working through the “biggest shutdown in global aviation since the dawn of commercial flight.”

“We have never seen anything like it before,” she said. “It eclipses the shutdowns following the September 11th attacks and the volcanic ash crisis.

“The situation is fast-moving and volatile. What we have seen in recent days is not only countries, but entire regions, close off airspace and ground airlines at short notice.”

Covid 19 Coronavirus An electronic board showing cancelled flights in Brisbane, Australia, 25-03-2020. Image: Florent Rols / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

It comes amid calls for the Government to outline it plans for bringing Irish people living in Australia home amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Yesterday, Navan man Eoin Brannock told Newstalk Breakfast that hundreds of Irish were stranded in Sydney Airport after they were refused entry to flights.

Officials are now working airlines, aviation companies and other European countries to try and get people home.

“The situation is no longer as simple as chartering flights,” she said. “We need permission to enter airspace and regions on the way back to Ireland.

“Therefore, For the last 24 hours we have been focused on getting every possible Irish citizen on the shrinking number of commercial flights.”

A “significant group” of people are returning from Australia via London today with more due to fly through Qatar tomorrow.

Sydney COVID-19 Sydney’s Bondi Beach was closed after hundreds of beachgoers crowded on the sand on Friday ignoring the ongoing COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, 21-03-2020. Image: Xinhua/Bai Xuefei

“In cases like Peru, where we have an arrangement in place with Aer Lingus and British Airways for a repatriation flight to go in, internal travel remains heavily restricted and many of our citizens are located hundreds of miles away from the international airport,” she said.

“We are working 24 hours to get the necessary transport and permissions in place to move them.”

The Government is also working with the UK, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain to try and get people on their chartered flights.

“We know this is very stressful for those abroad and their families here but we are leaving no stone unturned in trying to get people home,” she said.

Italy An Airbus A320 of the Italian national airline Alitalia rolls on 19.01.2015 at the airport in Frankfurt am Main (Hesse) to take off. Photo: Christoph Schmidt / dpa | usage worldwide

Meanwhile, a number of Irish people stuck in Italy are to be repatriated to Ireland on Thursday.

More than 500 Italian citizens currently in Ireland are also to be returned home on two flights from Dublin to Rome.

Italian carrier Alitalia says it will operate the services.

Any Irish person stranded abroad should contact their nearest embassy or consulate to update officials on their situation.

You can find the as much factual and practical information as possible” on embassy and consulate social media accounts.

If you believe an embassy is not aware of your presence in a foreign country you should register here.

Anyone looking for urgent assistance can contact the Department of Foreign Affairs’ COVID-19 phoneline on +353 (0) 1 6131733 between 7am and 10 pm every day.


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