Proposed new quarantine restrictions are based on an ‘enormous amount of hype’ about the effect of international travel on coronavirus figures.
CityJet CEO Pat Byrne was speaking as Cabinet considers introducing mandatory quarantine for anyone that arrives in Ireland without a negative coronavirus test.
The same rules will apply for anyone coming from Brazil or South Africa – with passengers that flout the rules facing prosecution.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Mr Byrne said only ‘tiny numbers’ of passengers are arriving in Ireland without negative tests.
“First of all, I don’t understand why people would actually arrive here without a negative test because they should be made to declare their negative test before they board from their point of origin,” he said.
“So, in the first place, I think there is a lot of hype about putting people in hotels and quarantine because we are talking about tiny numbers.”
He said there is also “an enormous amount of hype” about the number of cases that are attributable to travel.
“The numbers, I believe, are below 1.5% and even the Tánaiste last night was basically saying it is not a massive problem,” he said.
“I think it is more panic and it is just continuing to intensify lockdown. We seem to be a one-trick pony in trying to deal with the whole problem and we are vilifying the airline industry which has a massive knock-on effect on the tourism and hospitality industries as well.
“We just seem to go for more lockdown all the time. We are not actually approaching the issue and the problem in a sensible, balanced and rational manner in my view.”
Also on the show this morning, the Transport Minister said summer holidays abroad are ‘unlikely’ for most people this summer.
Eamon Ryan also said NPHET has advised the Government that a ‘zero-COVID’ approach like the one seen in New Zealand is “highly unlikely” to be practical in Ireland.
Mr Byrne said airplanes are one of the safest places you can be while the virus is circulating – and warned that Ireland cannot cut itself off from the EU.
“Community rates are high, I accept that but I also believe that sitting on an airplane is one of the safer places you can be with the air filtration system,” he said. “That is a scientific fact.
“The other thing we have to remember is we are part of the EU. Yes, we are separated by water but we are putting ourselves at an enormous disadvantage by cutting ourselves off and mooring ourselves as an island in the Atlantic.
“We have to pay attention to that. We are not New Zealand; we never can be New Zealand. We are part of the EU; we are also dealing with the fallout from Brexit and we can’t just cut ourselves off from the rest of the EU.”
The CityJet boss said an EU-wide travel bubble would be a more effective solution.
“I think that probably is possible,” he said. “I think that when we accept that the disease is prevalent throughout the entire bloc of the EU, I think that should be treated as common travel area and a common bubble.
£I think there is an enormous amount of hype about new strain and the next new strain and I think that is all part of the fear that has been put into people and has actually paralysed our way of thinking as a nation about how to deal with this.”
He said Ireland is “missing a very important tool” by not using rapid antigen testing in the community to get people back to work.
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