As you will be aware, on July 19 the Government regulations pertaining international travel were amended. The approach to travel and associated restrictions are now significantly different, reflecting the positive impact of the vaccination programme and our gradual emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic.
For sportspeople, this means that international travel can be undertaken without the endorsement of Sport Ireland as ‘essential travel’. With the exception of travel from a Category 2 Country/Designated State, the submission of protocols by NGBs to Sport Ireland to obtain a Travel Certificate is no longer required.
It remains the case that Mandatory Hotel Quarantine is required for passengers arriving from a Category 2 Country who are not fully vaccinated or do not have valid proof of recovery from Covid-19. ‘At home quarantine’ still applies to those who are vaccinated or have valid proof of recovery from Covid-19. Where it can be avoided, Sport Ireland advises against travel to and from these countries. Sport Ireland continues to have a role in supporting requests for exemption for high performance athletes/teams from Mandatory Hotel Quarantine with an equivalent arrangement in place (non-vaccinated or no valid proof of recovery from Covid-19). The process of approval of these requests remains the same as previously; involving a number of external agencies and consideration on a case by case basis.
In light of these changes, the Return to Sport Expert Group advise that NGBs consider the following when undertaking any future travel:
- International travel presents a potentially higher risk now than at any other time during the pandemic due to an increased volume of passengers at airports and on planes. Whilst restrictions may be easing, the approach to protecting travelling teams should not. NGBs are advised to continue to establish protocols in advance of travel to identify and plan for any potential risks.
- Travelling groups should monitor Gov.ie for the most up to date information on the public health obligations upon re-entry to Ireland. As you will have seen throughout the pandemic, changes can occur frequently and without notice.
- Any international country that a group plans to travel to, including EU countries, may adopt differing and more restrictive public health obligations upon entry. It is important to check this information prior to travel with official government sources.
- It can be anticipated that the intention to travel with younger and/or non-vaccinated individuals may increase. NGBs are strongly advised to consider the implications for these individuals should they contract Covid-19 whilst abroad. The process of repatriation can be difficult and individuals may face a situation where they cannot return to Ireland for an extended period of time. This scenario should be planned for in any travel protocol and all individuals should be made aware of this potential scenario.
- The approach to travel by NGBs should remain on an ‘opt-in basis’. Covid-19 is still prevalent in Ireland and overseas. Individuals should be enabled to make their own decision to undertake travel without repercussions.