WITH THE Covid-19 pandemic continuing to ravage Ireland, the country has been discouraging tourists for a full year now.
While Irish people have been 'staycationing' when restrictions allowed, exploring the nooks and crannies of the Emerald Isle that they may not have visited when they were allowed to jet off to Spain, tourists from abroad have been asked not to visit until things are safer.
Ireland is now a full year into the pandemic, with cases remaining high and the roll-out of vaccines hitting multiple bumps in the road, so the question is: when will Ireland open up again?
When will I be able to visit Ireland from abroad?
The short answer is, unfortunately, nobody really knows.
But it's looking quite unlikely that the country will encourage foreign tourism before the end of 2021, as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has already said that Irish abroad should not think about coming home for Christmas next year.
Currently, Ireland is under Level 5 Lockdown with citizens unable to leave their homes except for exercise or essential reasons such as food shopping, and must remain within 5km from home.
Presently, there are no solid plans for even the 5km rule to be stretched, it is unclear when restaurants and cafés might reopen, and less than half of schoolchildren have returned to the classrooms-- so discussions on foreign travel into Ireland are not exactly at the forefront of people's minds.
Is it illegal to visit Ireland right now?
It's not illegal to visit Ireland from abroad right now, however it is illegal to do so without following the Covid-19 measures-- and illegal to not follow the lockdown rules once you arrive.
Some countries which have been designated as 'high risk' will soon be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine once they arrive in Ireland-- this includes countries from Africa and South America, as well as Austria and the UAE.
Passengers from all other countries, including the United Kingdom, who arrive into Ireland via ports or airports, must show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of their departure.
They must also fill out a Passenger Locator Form stating where they will be quarantining for two weeks. Passengers will be checked up on via text, phonecall or an in-person visit by Gardaí to ensure they are isolating.
What has the government said about foreign travel into Ireland?
Just one month after Christmas 2020, on 26 January Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was unlikely that international travel would return this year, and appeared to already be warning Irish abroad not to come home for Christmas 2021.
Speaking at a Government press briefing, Mr Varadkar said "Maybe it will be the case that international travel is not possible this summer, [or] this Christmas.
"I don’t want to close off that possibility today, but maybe we’ll have to."
He was speaking after an explosion of Covid-19 cases in late December and early January was attributed to household mixing and the Irish diaspora returning home for the holiday season.
Can Irish people go on holidays abroad?
Just as the Government is discouraging people from flying into Ireland on a holiday, they are also warning Irish people not to fly out of the country.
Recently, there was controversy with regards to what has been perceived as Ireland's weak border control, as thousands of people continue to arrive into Dublin airport each week.
Many of these were found to be Irish people returning from holiday destinations such as Tenerife.
When Covid-19 checkpoints got stricter, and the fines for leaving the country without a valid reason-- such as for medical treatments-- became harsher, some Irish people determined to catch some winter sun despite the pandemic looked for loopholes-- and found them.
In February, there was an influx in Irish tourists booking dental appointments in sun destinations Tenerife, so passengers could show Gardaí their appointment confirmation and were allowed to travel without being fined.
At the time, dentists in Tenerife and elsewhere reported a large volume of Irish people booking appointments, requesting a confirmation email and never showing up for their treatment.
Fines for leaving Ireland without a valid reason have been increased to €2,000 per person, and the number of bogus dentist appointments in holiday destinations have since dropped off.