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Americans Can Travel To Ireland, But Locals May Not Want Them

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There aren't a lot of places you can go on a U.S. passport at the moment. But for now, you can still go to Ireland. When you get there, though, you have to stay in isolation for 14 days before venturing out. American tourists usually bring Ireland millions of dollars in revenue, but now the traditional Irish greeting of a hundred thousand welcomes has been virtually silenced. Teri Schultz has the story.

TERI SCHULTZ, BYLINE: Americans can come to Ireland, but many locals wish they wouldn't.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, it is required that...

The Irish...

SCHULTZ: It's a frequent and often emotional topic in Irish media. Newstalk Radio sent reporter Barry Whyte to Dublin Airport to talk to people arriving from the U.S.

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BARRY WHYTE: They said they just wanted to get out of their home state because COVID-19 is so high there at the minute.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: A completed form must be handed to immigration officers at...

SCHULTZ: That's one thing unsettling the Irish; another is a widespread perception that Americans are ignoring the quarantine rules. Irish American JLisa (ph) Rowland says those stories even reached the remote island where she was visiting family.

JLISA ROWLAND: I actually heard quite a bit from friends and relatives that there were Americans running around down south, and they were pretty pissed off because they're not quarantining. They were saying, you know, you Yanks, this is ridiculous.

SCHULTZ: Rowland says she assured everyone she'd stayed inside for two weeks when she first arrived in Ireland. But she says it's not just Americans frustrating locals; it's also their own leaders.

ROWLAND: The Irish government is telling Irish people not to travel, you know, that it's not safe. And yet the government's letting all these people in, and they're letting them in from really high-risk countries, which the U.S. is.

SCHULTZ: The Irish transport ministry declined multiple requests for an interview to discuss the policy. Political analyst Daniel Keohane says officials have yet to explain the apparent contradiction to their own citizens, which has added to public anxiety, including his own.

DANIEL KEOHANE: It makes no sense whatsoever. So people in Ireland are very upset. And, normally, you know, the Irish welcome Americans with open arms, but right now - no, I don't want someone from Florida or Texas coming near me, OK?

SCHULTZ: Although some restaurants are announcing publicly U.S. customers aren't welcome without proof of quarantine, at the Station House restaurant in Blennerville, owner Leanne Booth says she won't go that far.

LEANNE BOOTH: OK. We do, indeed. Do you want to sign yourself in?

SCHULTZ: She does require customers to write down contact information, and she keeps a close eye on them.

BOOTH: That's why there's the temperature gun there. And then I won't go walking around and checking the Irish peoples, but then if you're tourists and then especially a group of them, I'll go check them and to get their record.

SCHULTZ: Booth might not need that temperature gun much, though.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Are you going home? That's just what I've done (ph). And ask them to pardon...

SCHULTZ: In nearby Killarney, usually packed with U.S. travelers, there's not an American accent to be heard on the main shopping street or in hotels, like the Great Southern, where Margaret O'Brien works.

MARGARET O'BRIEN: We are missing the Americans very much. We usually have maybe 400 staying, and out of that, we would have 300 Americans.

SCHULTZ: Meanwhile, Ireland - like many other European countries - has seen a recent climb in the number of coronavirus cases, which the government has specifically admitted is not primarily due to outsiders.

For NPR News, I'm Teri Schultz.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEQUERBOARD'S "DUNES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.