Ireland is scared that visiting Americans will make coronavirus cases surge

can americans travel to ireland coronavirus quarantine
Photo via Luca Sartoni/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

In the European Union, 26 countries have banned American tourists because of the nation’s high number of COVID-19 infections (along with Mexico and Canada). Notably, the United Kingdom has kept its borders open—and both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are not thrilled about it. Especially because Americans can travel to Ireland.

When American travelers arrive in Ireland, they are technically required to fill out a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form and agree to participate in a 14-day self-quarantine. But NBC News reported that business owners say the country has not enforced the rules, putting the burden on them if they want to keep coronavirus cases down. Currently, Ireland doesn’t check to see if visitors comply with the isolation order or punish violators. 

Not even Ireland’s E.U. commissioner for trade followed those quarantine rules after attending an 81-person dinner in Brussels, and he had to resign from his post in late August.

In mid-July, the Republic of Ireland Prime Minister Simon Coveney said international tourists “should not come to Ireland if they are unable to restrict their movements when they arrive,” according to the BBC

Ireland relies on the economic boost it gets from American tourists. NBC News reported that more than 2 million tourists from the U.S. and Canada visit the country annually, typically bringing in $2 billion to the tourism industry. The New York Times reported that American visitors are the largest source of tourism revenue for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It accounted for 28% of foreign spending in 2018, according to Tourism Ireland.

The U.S. Embassy in Ireland, meanwhile, reports, “There are no restrictions on flights from the United States to Ireland although the number of available flights is significantly diminished.  Aer Lingus, American Airlines, and United Airlines are flying to the United States from Ireland, with limited service from Dublin to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Newark, and New York.

Now, business owners have to decide if the added income from tourism is worth potentially contracting COVID-19. Many don’t think it’s worth the risk. And they’re not alone: After all, Mexico and Canada have closed their borders with the U.S. until at least Oct. 21. 

JP McMahon, a Galway-based chef, told NBC News that “it’s absolute madness” that Ireland is still allowing visitors from states with coronavirus case surges, like Texas and Florida. McMahon now requires potential visitors to his restaurant to prove their arrival date to Ireland. 

Dozens of business owners echoed the same sentiment to the New York Times. The publication reported that many Americans traveling to Ireland haven’t self-quarantined because they assume the request doesn’t apply to them, making local hotels, restaurants, and experiential businesses uncomfortable. 

It’s not just Americans, though. A recent video that showed patrons and workers in a Dublin bar ignoring social distancing measures drew the anger of Prime Minister Micheál Martin, who said the behavior was “appalling.”

Regardless of how anyone feels, more Americans are still arriving daily– as many as 250 Americans a day, according to the Irish government. Government restrictions, meanwhile, were tightened in August for the country as a whole and will last at least until mid-September.

For what it’s worth, Ireland ranks No. 53 in the world with 643 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, as of Sept. 14. The U.S. ranks No. 11 with 2,004 cases per 100,000 people. The world leader is Qatar with 4,394 cases per 100,000 people.

Sources: Business Insider, NBC News, BBC, New York Times, National Geographic

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