Ryanair loses court challenge to Ireland’s pandemic travel rules – dpa international

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Ireland's tourism destinations, such as this beach on Achill Island on the Atlantic coast, are mostly empty (Simon Roughneen)

Ireland’s tourism destinations, such as this beach on Achill Island on Atlantic coast, are mostly empty (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN —  Ryanair has endorsed a Friday ruling by Ireland’s High Court that the government’s pandemic-related travel measures are advisory rather than mandatory.

Despite losing the case, the airline said it “welcomes” the decision as it “confirms there is no legal requirement for the current travel restrictions.”

Backed by Aer Lingus, formerly Ireland’s state carrier, Ryanair sued the government in July over the guidelines, which it claimed were presented as “mandatory” and were imposed without parliamentary oversight.

Opining that the measures are neither compulsory nor an abuse of power, Justice Garrett Simons said on Friday that “advice to avoid non-essential travel and to restrict movement on entry to the state is just that: advice.”

According to the Department of the Taoiseach, or prime minister, anyone travelling from countries other than those on the government’s “green list” are “requested” to “restrict their movements for 14 days” by “staying indoors in one location” after arriving in Ireland.

The list of exempted countries is down to effectively three – Cyprus, Finland and Latvia. Liechtenstein, which does not have an airport, is also on the list, which was last changed in late September with the removal of Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Iceland.

The rules do not apply to Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and where authorities on Friday announced a daily record of 934 new cases of the coronavirus.

Ryanair has announced two 20-percent capacity cuts since August and on Friday repeated a warning that it will close two Irish bases, including in the second-biggest city Cork, unless the government ditches its list and “adopts the EU ‘traffic light’ system,” which would exempt 15 countries from the self-isolation request.

“The Irish government needs to open back up,” Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson told Dublin broadcaster Newstalk ahead of Friday’s court ruling. Wilson’s airline previously accused the government of keeping Ireland “locked up like North Korea.”

Some of Ireland’s domestic restrictions have been dragged out for longer than elsewhere in Europe, with all pubs only allowed to reopen on September 21 and a ban on attending religious services reintroduced in Dublin after a recent rise in daily case numbers.

Official figures show 117 people in hospital after testing positive for the virus, an increase from 10 two months ago.

With travel slow to pick up after lockdowns were mostly ended across Europe in May and June, Ryanair, the continent’s biggest airline, announced separately on Friday that September traffic was down 64 per cent year-on-year, with only 5.1 million “guests” flying last month and only half of scheduled flights taking off.

Data collated by the World Tourism Organization, a United Nations agency, show tourism in Europe to be the second-worst hit after the Asia-Pacific by pandemic-related curbs.

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