Ireland's punishing lockdown just got worse – and it's not even working
Dublin Airport will be a ghost town again
Our quarantine green list has dropped to zero, so we no longer have the opportunity to travel
It was an exercise in futility from the start, and now Ireland's Green List is officially ... empty. Or rather, it will be on Monday when our current group of four approved countries (Cyprus, Finland, Latvia and Liechtenstein) will all be removed and when we return we will not be able to go anywhere without facing 14 days of isolation .
When the Green List was announced in July, it consisted of 15 countries, some of which could not even be reached without breaking travel restrictions. The original plan was for it to be updated every two weeks, but that just didn't happen.
Instead, the Green List was ignored, left without updates until September and apparently hidden at the end of a pile of to-do items that nobody wanted to address. Not a single country has been added to the list since its inception. Instead, the number has decreased with each announced update, making the entire Rigmarole look more like an exercise telling us where not to go rather than providing viable travel options.
While the UK's Green List was far from perfect, it did at least give Brits who wanted to travel a certain amount of freedom. Sure, I didn't envy the shambolic scenes that emerged when the restrictions were changed at the last minute, but at least the opportunity to travel was there at all. All we had is a whimsical Green List that contradicted the overarching message that despite its existence, we should still not travel for non-essential reasons.
Travel has been an afterthought for this government throughout the crisis. Every promised deadline has brought nothing but disappointment, from the much belated announcement of the Green List to the complete lack of updates. It seems that any major decision is being pushed into the background until other countries first make their call, and then the implementation of a plan is delayed so long that everything becomes unusable anyway.
But now even the government seems to be admitting defeat and admitting what we've known all along - the Green List just isn't working. Instead, the new focus is on the adoption of the proposed EU-wide traffic light system, which will (hopefully) be completed on October 13th. But even that doesn't fill me with hope. The message now says that although the system can be agreed next week, it may not go into effect for some time.
Had this - or a more effective Green List - come into play in the summer months, when infection rates were far lower, we would have had a blissful few months of exploration at least before a winter of misery. We could have settled on a Greek island or spent our days tipsy with wine in Provence and at least got some kind of respite before the whole miserable process starts all over again. We could have made the best of things while the case numbers dwindled instead of waiting for a better outcome that never came.
While our numbers have admittedly skyrocketed in the past few weeks, all of this has happened without international travel. Cases have increased despite our strict rules - keep in mind that Dublin wet pubs are still closed seven months after the lockdown went into effect. We've been practically in a lockdown since March, and where did that leave us?
It's not just the fact that we can't travel (though I'm so insane right now that I actively fantasize about the middle seat on a burly Ryanair flight to Magaluf). Foreign visitor spending in Ireland is estimated at around EUR 5.8 billion (£ 5.2 billion) a year and this industry has been brought to its knees. Dublin Airport is a ghost town. The gastronomy was decimated. The country's hotels are so small that they have no choice but to close down. In particular, they can now only welcome guests who live in the same county.
That's right - the entire country is currently on a lockdown level 3, which means we cannot currently leave the counties we live in. Which makes the whole concept of a green list or the possible introduction of an EU traffic light system a moot point - there is nowhere to go, even if we technically had the option. Tourism companies across the country that have struggled through the summer months now face a long and busy winter with no local visitors having to keep things going. It is impossible to see how most will survive.
Once again the long and drawn-out decision-making by the powers that be becomes useless. Whichever final judgment is made does not matter - we will be stuck here one way or another.
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