Festive flights will ruin progress

Louise Hickey

Perhaps a low-key Christmas should be favoured this year, after advice that it is “not safe to travel home.” Leo Varadkar announced on Thursday the 12th of November that “in terms of people booking flights for Christmas to come home, I advise them not to do that at the moment.”

His stance was later backed up by Tony Holohan who said, “one of the biggest risks will be the re-importation of the disease through international travel”.

It is understandable that with the hundreds of Irish people living abroad, this news is disheartening to families wishing to be reunited. Families that have been craving to see each other for the past nine months and have been told just weeks before the festive period that they are not allowed. It doesn’t seem fair, however, are these reunions worth ruining all the progress we have made?

For the moment, increased travel is just not possible. Perhaps closer to Christmas there may be a solution. A vaccine is underway, and perhaps this could be the solution we are all waiting for.

Also, we are constantly watching other countries, and can see that Germany have made efforts to kick-start their airlines, with the introduction of Covid-19 tests before boarding.

Passengers on the ‘Lufthansa’ are tested before boarding the plane and have their results within 15 minutes. With Germany testing out new efforts, this may lead to the Tánaiste retracting his statement.

EU guidelines on travel are giving people hope. These allow people to travel to Ireland and out of Ireland with a negative Covid-19 test three days prior to arrival. It’s easy to say this plan would work but thinking logically it’s just not possible.

During the Christmas period last year, a recorded 1.2 million people passed through Dublin airport. The capacity for testing in Dublin and Cork airports currently stands at only 150 tests a day.

The HSE are already coping with a serious amount of pressure. Non-essential pressure should not be added to this. We just don’t have the facilities at the moment, therefore the only advice that can be given is to avoid flying into the country.

Numbers have started to increase once again, and that’s whilst we are in lockdown. This shows you really can’t be careful enough. Nobody knows how were going to fair when the country opens up again, but all measures should be put in place to keep our cases down. NPHET have explained that the risks when it comes to air travel are “very, very high”.

Before disagreeing with the government, we need to realise that people’s lives are at risk. They are simply telling us that although decisions might change in the future,  it is not currently advised for masses of people travelling home.

A good Christmas this year could mean a Christmas with lost loved ones next year. Air travel is just too risky right now. We all want this strange time to end as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I think it will be a Christmas cheer through Zoom this year.

Louise Hickey

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons