Ireland’s tourism chief resigns after he takes a trip to Italy — despite the government advising people to vacation at home – MarketWatch

DUBLIN -- When the sun shines in Ireland, it's not unusual to hear someone say, "You could be in Italy right now." Michael Cawley, chairman of the state tourism board, did not have to imagine such a scenario. He and his family are currently enjoying time in the Italian sun.

He went on vacation to Italy, despite the advice of his own government to limit travel overseas. Cawley, who previously served as the deputy chief executive and chief operations officer of Irish airline Ryanair RYAAY, -2.87%, said that he resigned from his post as the nation's tourism Czar with "great regret," adding, "I fully support the government's policy on tourism. "I will continue to help the industry emerge from its current difficulties," Cawley said. "It has been a privilege to serve as chair of F?ilte Ireland and to have contributed to the massive growth which Irish tourism has enjoyed prior to this global pandemic."

He added, "As has been reported in the media this morning, I am on a pre-arranged family holiday in Italy, which is on the Government green list." He handed in his resignation the same day Ireland reported the highest number of new coronavirus infections in three months. Also see: Travel stocks slump in London as Ryanair cuts capacity by a fifth On Saturday, Ireland confirmed 200 new cases of Covid-19; 66 more cases on Sunday brings the total number of cases to 27,257, a situation Prime Minister Miche?l Martin and Dr.

Ronan Glynn, the country's acting chief medical officer (CMO), both described as "deeply concerning." The number of coronavirus-related deaths here remains at 1,774. "Yesterday's #COVID19 numbers were deeply concerning and this morning I discussed the evolving situation with the T?naiste, Green Party Leader, Health Minister and acting CMO," Martin tweeted TWTR, -0.26% Sunday. News that the chairman of F?ilte Ireland, the country's tourism board, would take such a trip was greeted with a mixture of disbelief and disappointment among the public and lawmakers alike.

Cawley is listed as a member of the board of directors of no-frills airline Ryanair. F?ilte Ireland had been spearheading a major campaign to convince Irish people to avoid flying to Italy or other places on Ireland's "green list" and to vacation at home and support local businesses. (People returning from "green list" countries do not have to quarantine for 14 days.) Dispatches from a pandemic: Ireland is a nation of saints, scholars and the status quo.

When the sun shines in Ireland, it's not unusual to hear someone say, 'You could be in Italy right now.' (Photo: Quentin Fottrell.)

Last July, the Irish government has announced a tax credit or rebate for vacationing in Ireland.

Domestic holidaymakers will receive EUR125 (£148) if they spend roughly EUR600 (£710) on accommodation and restaurants. Couples will be able to claim EUR250 (£296). The so-called vacation subsidy will be available until October and will apply to hotels, restaurants and non-alcoholic drinks.

The scheme was designed to help stimulate an economy flattened by the coronavirus pandemic, but also to dissuade people from traveling abroad and spreading the virus. Martin said it was important that people don't undertake non-essential travel. "I would encourage everyone to support the tourism and hospitality industries in any way they can, and am taking my own holidays in this country. F?ilte Ireland will continue to promote holidaying in Ireland," Martin said.

Johns Hopkins University ranks Ireland as No.

15 in the world on a list of COVID-related deaths per capita: 36.5 per 100,000 with a case-fatality rate of 6.6%. For comparison, the U.S. is ranked at No.

10 with a fatality rate of 51.5 per 100,000 and a case-fatality rate of 3.2%. Ireland, a country with a population of 4.9 million excluding the British province of Northern Ireland, has also recorded one of the highest rates of COVID-related nursing-home deaths in the world.

Some 62% of fatalities from the virus occurred in nursing homes, a rate only exceeded by Canada. Last Monday, the Irish government introduced a mandatory face-mask policy in stores four months after the World Health Organization and other international health authorities changed their official policy on face masks, recommending people wear them to help stop the spread of the virus. More on the pandemic: If every American started wearing a face mask today, this is how many lives could be saved

Customers enjoy a drink at Murrays Pub on Grafton Street in Dublin. Photo: Getty.

The government's National Public Health Emergency Team is convening on Monday to review the rise in infections. "The phased reopening of the country has afforded people the opportunity to socialize with each other again," Glynn said. "However, some are doing this recklessly and undermining the efforts of the majority of people around the country who are following public health advice.

This cannot continue,' he added. "This pandemic isn't over just because we are tired of living with it." The weather in Ireland during the August has been choppy at best: temperatures have frequently fallen into the low 60s, and mist and rain casts a blanket over much of this island on the northwestern periphery of Europe on Monday. It is certainly not reminiscent of the Italian Rivera.

But lawmakers have urged people to abide by new face-mask regulations introduced this month, asking people to wear face coverings in stores, and have pleaded with people to avoid traveling abroad for purposes other than essential work-related travel or emergencies. Many are listening. London-listed Ryanair DE:RYA RYAAY, -2.87% shares fell Monday after saying it was cutting capacity by 20% in September and October.

Forward bookings have "notably weakened over the last 10 days, given continuing uncertainty over recent COVID case rates in some EU countries." Coronavirus update: COVID-19 has now killed at least 776,157 people worldwide. As of Monday, the U.S. has the world's highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases (5,408,268) and deaths (170,131). Worldwide, confirmed cases are now at 21,720,713.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index DJIA, -0.25% was down slightly Monday, while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.36% and Nasdaq COMP, +0.96% were trading marginally higher as investors await progress on a vaccine and details of round two of the economic stimulus program.

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