The 2021 tourism season will be serious trouble if Ireland’s vaccination programme does not move “very, very quickly” in the New Year.
It comes as the Oireachtas Transport Committee prepares to publish a report calling for a significant increase in the use of antigen testing for international travel.
The report, due to be published today, is also expected to call for a relaxation of rules governing people arriving into Ireland from countries designated ‘Red’ by the European Centre for Disease Control.
The plan would see them able to waive the need to self-isolate provided they sit a negative COVID-19 test in the three days before travelling.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, travel expert Eoghan Corry said the report is probably outdated before it is even published.
“The problem is, almost as quickly as evidence is produced it is being overtaken by events,” he said.
“Listeners will remember antigen tests were all the rage during the summer.
“They haven’t got the confidence of the medical community that they need and even the PCR testing, there are major questions about it.”
He said the international travel industry is now moving towards vaccination and a potential vaccine passport.
Yesterday, it emerged that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is in the final stages of developing a digital vaccine passport; however, most airlines have yet to make a decision on whether it will be mandatory.
On the show yesterday, Trinity Professor Aoife McLysaght warned that we may have to sacrifice international travel next year “unless the vaccination programme goes extremely fast.”
Mr Corry said international travel has not led to any virus surges to date – but agreed that a swift vaccine rollout plan is essential for the tourism sector.
“I don’t agree that curtailing international travel will change our infection rate,” he said. “All the data points in the opposite direction.
“I think we have something like seven active cases due to international travel – 0.18% of the national total.
“But certainly, the narrative that is being controlled there is impacting on whether we will have a tourism season next year.
“I do agree with her that the vaccine programme will have to move very, very quickly.
“If it is not out there in scale by Easter, I think we will be looking at serious problems. The entire 2021 tourism season could be in trouble.”
He said the Government must step in and support regional airports and the hospitality sector next year.
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