Gaeltacht Minister Sean Kyne says he opposes the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (NPHET) decision on an early lifting of travel restrictions to and from offshore islands.
The decision to allow travel to and from offshore islands to resume from June 29th, announced on Friday night, has thrown island communities into confusion.
There has been one case of Covid-19 on the Aran Islands, but the three islands are on water rations due to the long dry spell. There are also concerns about its elderly population’s exposure to the pandemic.
Mr Kyne said that apart from the water issue, local authorities had no time to prepare piers and public facilities and signage for an opening on June 29th.
While there has been a welcome from tourism interests, there are serious concerns among medical professionals and residents on a number of islands, he said.
A survey conducted by the co-op on the Aran island of Inis Óirr last week indicated that 92 per cent of residents and businesses oppose re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.
Comdháil Oileáin na hÉireann is due to hold a board meeting this morning about the issue in a bid to secure a consensus in advance of next Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.
Islands had been closed until the beginning of phase five of the Government’s Covid-19 road map and expected to open again to visitors from August 10th.
Mr Kyne said that when phase five was scrapped, he received a large number of communications from island residents and businesses with opposing views about the timing of re-opening.
“I’ve sent recommendations to the Taoiseach, who has been engaging with the National Public Health Emergency Team on this issue,” Mr Kyne said.
“Unless the islands can come up with an agreed position, however, the NPHET decision is the default one,” he said.
At a special sitting of the Dail Covid-19 committee late last week, Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuiv (FF) proposed a special package of assistance to island businesses if there is later re-opening.