A key Ryanair executive has called on the government to “get the balance right” between public health and business.
It comes as public health officials have been doubling down on their opposition to any relaxation of overseas travel restrictions.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said people who have booked overseas trips should not travel at present due to the risk to themselves, families and the wider society.
Mr Wilson said at some stage the country was going to have to get “back to normal”, it was not possible to have restrictions open ended “forever.”
Every other country in Europe has returned to flying in keeping with European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) guidelines, he added.
Ryanair will have 1,000 flights today adhering to ECDC guidelines and the return to the skies is not just for tourism but also for business. Mr Wilson said that the idea that tourists were going to act in an irresponsible way was simply not the case.
The idea that Covid-19 just comes from abroad was not accurate, he said. “People will not lose their heads because they are on holidays. People are going to do it (holiday) sensibly.”
‘Safe to travel’
Dr Jack Lambert, specialist in infectious disease at the Mater hospital, Dublin has said on Morning Ireland that if people observe the appropriate safety guidelines then it is safe to travel.
The government needs to come up with practical solutions, he said.
Haven’t found myself shouting at the radio in quite a while but that interview on air travel and #Covid19 on @morningireland changed all that. As a citizen, I’ll keep taking my public health advice from our @CMOIreland and would recommend you do likewise
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) July 1, 2020
People have stayed home for three to four months and there is still Covid-19 in the community and there are some cases as a result of travel.
Dr Lambert said that he would not recommend travelling to Florida or a trip to Disneyland because Covid was rampant, but he would go to Iceland, Slovenia or Greece which he said were safer than any city centre in Ireland.
“This is a long-term problem, we need quick decisions.”
Dr Lambert pointed out that it took weeks for the government to come up with the restrictions. Decisions were needed from the experts in the best time period, to make recommendations, he said.
The EU had a list of countries that are safe, that have been vetted and “Ireland is going to think about it. The consequences are economic losses to everybody.”
Dr Lambert said he disagreed with the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan who had called on people not to holiday abroad. “I think we should go along with the best expert opinion. I’m not suggesting opening the borders and do nothing. I’m calling on them to come up with a plan the same as the rest of the world.”
The rest of the world had imposed regulations with regard to face masks on public transport, but that had not happened in Ireland. “Things can be done proactively, we don’t need to wait months and months.”
Passengers who did not fly because of the public health recommendations will not receive a refund, he said. Those who had their flights cancelled and opted for a cash refund will get their cash back.
To date Ryanair has gotten through almost 50 per cent of the backlog of refunds. Mr Wilson pointed out that 30 million passengers were discommoded at that time and it is taking time to get through the backlog.
“We’re back in the air because we want to fly, we want to get back to normal.”
Mr Wilson said that 100,000 people depended on tourism and it was important to get the sector back up and running.
The government needed to show leadership and get the balance right, he said.
In response to the interview, former minister for health Simon Harris said on Twitter that he found himself “shouting at the radio”.
“As a citizen, I’ll keep taking my public health advice from our @CMOIreland and would recommend you do likewise,” Mr Harris said.
Ryanair expects to carry 4.5 million passengers this month following more than three months of Covid-19 travel bans.
In line with EU aviation and disease control authorities’ recommendations, the airline is making it mandatory for crew and passengers to wear face masks on its flights, along with providing only cashless inflight sales and asking travellers to bring fewer check-in bags.
Ryanair is planning about 3,500 job losses if it cannot agree pay cuts with its staff, the airline’s boss Michael O’Leary said on Wednesday.
Europe’s biggest budget airline had previously said that it had cut more than 250 staff from its office around Europe and was looking at up 3,000 cuts among pilot and cabin crew.
“We’ve already announced about 3,500 job losses but we’re engaged in extensive negotiations with our pilots, our cabin crew and we’re asking them to all take pay cuts as an alternative to job losses,” Mr O’Leary told BBC.