By Cate McCurry, PA
Thousands of holidaymakers passed through Irish airports on Monday as travel restrictions in and out of the country were lifted.
The State has implemented the EU Covid Certificate, allowing people who are fully vaccinated to travel freely.
The certificate has been in place in other EU countries since July 1st.
The lifting of restrictions on travel will see thousands of people going on holidays while others will travel back to Ireland to visit family and friends.
From Monday, it is possible to travel to Ireland from countries within the EU, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland with no requirement to quarantine if the traveller has valid proof of being fully vaccinated, having recovered from Covid-19 or have had a negative PCR test in the last 72 hours.
The Government has advised people who are not vaccinated to avoid high-risk activities, including international travel.
Whether you are departing or arriving, you are very welcome to @DublinAirport.
Please keep yourself up to date on all the latest Irish government travel advise here: https://t.co/ngQVCWL7lZ and have a safe trip. #DUBTravel pic.twitter.com/UYOnAS2DYN
— Dublin Airport (@DublinAirport) July 19, 2021
Travellers coming from other countries, including Britain, will not have to quarantine if they have valid proof that they are fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19.
Those who travel on the basis of a negative PCR test will have to self-quarantine but this can be ended if they receive a second negative PCR test taken from day five.
More than 1.1 million Covid certificates have been emailed to people in Ireland and in excess of 600,000 have been posted.
Call centre delays
A call centre to deal with queries relating to the EU Digital Certificate was fully operational from today.
While it is overseen by the Department of Health, it is run on a day-to-day basis by a private firm.
Since going live earlier on Monday, people have reported lengthy delays in reaching an operator.
Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State, said there have been issues with the helplines.
“I can assure you that Government is working very hard in order to get that system back up and running,” she added.
“This was one ask of the aviation travel sector, that we can reopen international travel as safely ass possible, adhering to all public health guidance.
“I would hope that helpline will be up and running again.
“We are continuing to engage with the aviation sector. We are continuing to review and assess what is needed in the aviation sector. It’s one of the hardest hit sectors and part of our economic recovery plan, there is specific mention for supports for the aviation sector,
“Their number one ask was to reopen international travel and do so as safely as possible.”
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the Government will be constantly assessing rules around international travel.
Mr Harris was asked about England’s so-called “freedom day”, where most legal restrictions have now abolished, and whether the relaxation of travel from Britain to Ireland will be reviewed.
“We will be constantly working with public health and assessing what is needed in relation to international travel where extra measures may need to be put in place but for today, we are saying if you are fully vaccinated or fully recovered, you can come here form the UK and travel into Ireland,” Mr Harris added.
DAA (Dublin Airport Authority) chief executive Dalton Philips said: “Today is a hugely exciting and much-anticipated day as Ireland fully reopens for international travel.
“Our operational readiness team, encompassing every department across both airports, has been planning extensively for this day so that all our customers have as safe and as pleasant an experience when travelling through our airports.
“The global pandemic has taken an enormous toll and people are looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends overseas who they haven’t seen for almost a year and a half.
“We have been waiting patiently for international travel to resume and it is wonderful to see customers coming through the doors of our terminals again for leisure and business travel.
“There is a great buzz and air of excited anticipation at our airports.
“We have missed our passengers, our airlines have missed them and our business partners have missed them.”
Covid-19 has had a crippling effect on every aspect of the travel and tourism sector.
“Dublin and Cork Airports have experienced a loss of over 43 million passengers in the past 16 months,” Mr Philips added.
“We are working tirelessly to restore the vital connectivity that Ireland has lost during that time.”
Passengers are being advised to arrive at the airport at least two hours for European flights, and three hours for US travel.
It comes as nearly 80 per cent of the adult population have received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
Northern Ireland certificates
Meanwhile, there has been criticism that Irish passport holders who live in Northern Ireland cannot use the EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC).
They will not be able to access the scheme if they received a vaccination north of the Border.
Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond said it was “disappointing”.
“The DCC is only available to those who were vaccinated by the HSE, though Irish passport holders vaccinated elsewhere will be given a certificate in ‘phase two’ of the rollout,” he said.
“At the moment, however, we don’t know when this will be.
“I have been informed that in the meantime, those vaccinated elsewhere can still travel if they show their proof of vaccination in the airport.
“I find the situation to be massively unclear and disappointing.
“I’ve raised this with the Taoiseach (Micheál Martin), Minister for Health (Stephen Donnelly) and my party colleagues, and I’ll continue to do so until we get clarity on this.”