Ireland is expected to sign up to the EU's traffic light system for travel, offering a glimmer of hope for the tourism and aviation industries.
Health minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed that Ireland will adopt the system, with Cabinet approval due to come later today.
The system was agreed on Friday by the EU in a bid to knit together a patchwork and disparate array of travel regimes and advice across the bloc. The EU criteria, which member states have backed, assesses countries on matters such as their incidence rate per 100,000 people, as well as the positive test rate in a given population.
The system will replace Ireland's much-discussed green list, which was empty on Monday morning following the removal of four countries.
Under the new scheme, countries will be assigned a green, amber, or red coding by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC). Travellers who go to another EU country from a green list country are unlikely to have to quarantine, while travellers from orange-rate countries may have to take a Covid test before or after arriving.
Passengers from red-rated states would likely have to either take a test, or quarantine, or both. However, many of the protocols in the system are voluntary and "countries would be free to determine what measures to take".
One issue which could potentially slow Ireland's full adoption of the system, however, is airport testing.
Junior transport minister Hildegarde Naughton last week told the Oireachtas Transport Committee that such a system must be “quick, cheap, available, and meet the threshold for accuracy, specificity, and sensitivity”.
However, Mr Donnelly said testing must be "over and above what we already have", in terms of capacity. He said that Ireland had examined a rapid testing system called PCR, which he called "the gold standard", and other rapid testing.
Last week, Dublin Airport Authority, which runs Dublin and Cork Airports, told the Oireachtas it had the capability to carry out 15,000 pre-departure tests in Dublin Airport, but needs the Government's assistance.
DAA's plan would see passengers tested in a short-term car park within 48 hours of their departure. Upon a negative Covid test, they would be cleared to fly. Similar tests would be provided on arrival.
Eoghan O’Mara Walsh, chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, said that the new traffic light system is "a first step" in returning some level of normality to Ireland's tourism sector.
"Getting to 2019 levels of activity will take a couple of years, so there has to be an in between. The Irish tourism sector lost €27m a day in summer, that is not sustainable," he said.
Pat Dawson of the Irish Travel Agents Association said that there "had to be some sort of mechanism" to open up the economy "otherwise the recovery will get longer and longer".