THE Covid-19 crisis saw some 8000 citizens seeking consular assistance to return to Ireland, according to figures released by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence, Simon Coveney (above), revealed the scale of the effort by diplomatic staff around the world, which saw Irish people on five continents helped to return home.
In some situations, flights were even chartered in order to ensure that Irish people could safely return.
“[T]his has been an extremely stressful time for our citizens at home and abroad,” Mr Coveney said. “Our consular team at home and our network of Embassies and Consulates around the world have worked continuously throughout the crisis to provide our citizens with information and assistance in this unprecedented global situation.
“Advice and assistance was provided in relation to commercial flights wherever these were available, for flights chartered by the EU and other partners where possible or, in a few exceptional cases, for flights we chartered directly ourselves.
“These figures represent a mammoth amount of work by our consular and embassy networks. In some cases, this work remains ongoing as citizens continue to find themselves in difficulty abroad.”
With non-essential travel presenting risks both to the individual and the Irish population and health system should the virus be carried to Ireland by those who have elected to go abroad, Mr Coveney further reinforced the official advice to only travel if it is essential. With such a huge effort by consulates and embassies around the world, there is a limit to the assistance which can be offered.
“It is important to remember that the Covid-19 pandemic continues to accelerate internationally, and there are significant risks associated with international travel,” he continued. “Anyone who chooses to travel abroad in these circumstances, in full knowledge of the risks, including to their own health and to public health in Ireland upon their return, as well as potential lockdowns and other restrictions overseas, should be aware of the limitations of any consular assistance that might be provided.
“For the moment, the government continues to advise against all non-essential travel overseas. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. This advice is kept under review and will be updated in line with any further decisions on the roadmap for the resumption of safe international travel.”