In common with a lot of businesses, and particularly those in the aviation industry, Ryanair is watching developments on the Covid-19 vaccine front carefully. About three candidates, led by a Pfizer-BioNtech partnership, are poised to get regulators’ approval, possibly before the end of the year. Others could follow in the first quarter of 2021.
A vaccine would help solve a lot of problems for virtually all businesses, not least by eliminating the need for the lockdowns that once again grip many parts of Europe. At this stage, most observers agree that there are few questions over regulators’ backing or the vaccines’ likely effectiveness. The big issue will be how fast they can be made and distributed to the masses. It could be the back end of next year by the time everyone has had their dose.
In the meantime Ryanair, its rivals and Europe’s airports argue that full adoption of the EU’s traffic light system would be a positive first step on the road to eventual recovery. This grades regions – rather than entire countries – as green, orange and red, according to their Covid infection rates, with green the lowest risk and red the highest.
Neil Sorahan, Ryanair’s chief financial officer, joined his colleagues yesterday in advocating that the Republic allow free movement for those from green and orange regions. This was the original idea behind the system when the EU first proposed it in September. The EU also said that screening could be used to ease, or even eliminate, the need for restrictions to be imposed on passengers from red zones.
However, last month the bloc’s foreign ministers fudged the issue, advocating free movement for travellers from green zones, which now account for little of the EU, while allowing individual states to decide how they handle those from orange and red regions.
Ryanair and the rest of the industry may find out today what approach the Republic will take. Both chief medical officer Tony Holohan and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, are due to discuss this issue before the Oireachtas transport committee. Hopes are not high that they will significantly relax restrictions.