It's been a year that none of us will forget in a hurry. From the first rumblings about the new coronavirus back in January and the discovery of the first confirmed case in Ireland just a few weeks later - life as we knew it has changed rapidly. 

Those of us prone to a bit of wanderlust - or even those who just like a quick getaway to the sunshine in the summer - have been forced to rethink our plans as lockdowns and travel restrictions wreaked havok on the tourism and travel industry, business in general, the economy, and how we live our day to day lives.

Let's take a look back at 2020 - the year that forgot its passport. 

Closed gates at the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing. Copyright: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

The Forbidden City is normally crowded with tourists during the Lunar New Year holiday, but the site was closed to prevent gatherings of large crowds that might help the novel coronavirus to spread.


January 2020

The World Health Organisation sets up a task force to examine an outbreak of a respiratory illness in China. 

On January 13th, officials confirm a case of COVID-19 in Thailand, the first recorded case outside of China.  The virus was spreading.

A sole visitor stands outside the deserted courtyard of the Louvre Pyramid, which marks the main entrance to the museum.

Photo copyright: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images


February 2020

The virus tore through Europe, with Italy quickly blacklisted as one of the worst affected countries.

On the 26th of February, the Six Nations rugby game between Ireland and Italy was called off. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs had already amended its travel advisory to Italy, telling citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the regions affected by coronavirus. European eyes were watching Italy closely, as the virus spiralled out of control. 

On February 27th, the first case was diagnosed on the island of Ireland, when a person in Northern Ireland was confirmed to have Covid-19. The patient has travelled from Northern Italy to Dublin and then on to Northern Ireland.

Just two days later, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was announced in the Republic of Ireland. The following day, it was revealed that a school in Dublin was to close for 14 days in response to the first Covid-19 case. 

Los Angeles - a deserted beach in Santa Monica. Copyright: Philip Cheung for The New York Times


March 2020

The number of cases was rising – now it had passed 30 – with an increasing amount coming from the spread of the virus in the community. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a “do not travel” advisory for Italy – the highest level of warning, putting Italy in the same category as countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair announced the full suspension of their flight schedules both into and out of Italy as that country introduced a series of strict measures limiting people’s movement. 

Deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction by affected nations, WHO made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

Barcelona: The pigeons had the famous Las Ramblas all to themselves.  Copyright: Maria Contreras Coll for The New York Times


Enter the lockdown

Here in Ireland, a nation waited with bated breath as Taoiseach at the time Leo Varadkar made a public statement on RTE outlining the first round of restrictions which would be imposed to prevent the spread of Covid 19. The way we lived our day to day lives would begin to change in a way most of us had never experienced before. Masks became the norm, people began social distancing, and businesses across Ireland saw a massive downturn as a result of the fear instilled by the potentially deadly illness.

But the restrictions didn't go far enough, and it was decided on March 27th that Ireland would move into a strict lockdown to try to ‘flatten the curve.’

All non-essential journeys were banned for two weeks.

The only exceptions were travelling to essential work, to shop for food or household goods, for healthcare appointments, and for vital family reasons.

Travelling was permitted to and from work where work is an essential health, social care or other essential service that can't be done from home. People were allowed to shop for essential food and household goods or attend medical appointments and collect medicines. Travel was also permitted for vital family reasons such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people but excluding social family visits.

People were allowed outdoors for brief physical exercise within 2km of your own home, as well as for farming purposes and food production.

Non-essential services and businesses were instructed to close their doors including a large number of retail stores, gyms and sports facilities.

Cocooning was also introduced which saw those aged 70 and over confined to their homes.

Berlin - the city is unrecognisable. Copyright: Emile Ducke for The New York Times


April 10th - Ireland's lockdown is extended for 3 weeks

As cases continued to surge and Ireland's death toll climbed, the government announced that the lockdown would remain in place for a further 3 weeks until May 5.

May 2020

On May 5th, there was some easing of restrictions, but it quickly became apparent that COVID-19 wasn’t going anywhere.

A man takes a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the empty Trocadero esplanade in Paris, on April 20, 2020, on the 35th day of a strict lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. Copyright: THOMAS COEX, AFP via Getty Images


Flash forward to October and The Government announced Level 5 restrictions across the country for six weeks until December 1st in a bid to curtail the spread of Covid-19, and in the hopes of allowing Irish citizens to have a ‘meaningful’ Christmas.


Taoiseach Micheál Martin said if people “pulled together over the next six weeks we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way.”

If we all pull together, and follow the spirit of these new rules, it will be a very special time, and give us all some respite from the hardship of the last seven months.”

On November 27th, the government published the following announcement:

The government has today agreed the approach for easing restrictions, including a phased move to Level 3 nationally, with a number of exceptions in place for the Christmas period.

The exceptions for the Christmas period are designed to support people to have a meaningful Christmas, albeit different to other years. The main objective is to stay safe and keep the COVID-19 numbers down so that we can maintain the lowest possible level of restrictions into the New Year.

The new relaxed restrictions were outlined as follows:

From 1 December:

places of worship to reopen for services with restrictive measures, subject to review in January

museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries to reopen

wet pubs to remain closed except for takeaway/delivery

From 18 December to 6 January:

households can mix with up to two other households

travel outside your county to be permitted

The intersection at 42nd St. & 7th Ave. in the Times Square area of New York City is almost completely free of people on March 19, 2020. Copyright: Kevin Wexler, NorthJersey.com via USA TODAY NETWORK


Into 2021

Today, 31st December 2020, the country is once again dealing with the reality of a return to Level 5 restrictions as COVID-19 numbers reach record levels across Ireland.

Due to spiralling case numbers, a ban has been placed on travel from the UK to a significant number of other countries. The current advice from the Irish government is as follows:

Ireland has implemented the new EU ‘traffic lights’ approach to travel, which applies to countries in the EU / EEA.

Our current advice for travel to these countries is ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. Our general advice for any other overseas travel remains ‘avoid non-essential travel’ or in some cases, ‘do not travel’.

On 13 October, Member States adopted the EU Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel restrictions in the context of COVID-19.

This ‘traffic lights’ approach provides for regions across the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) to be categorised as green, orange, red or grey, on the basis of the risk levels associated with COVID-19.

A combined indicator map will be published each week by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based on agreed criteria, including the 14-day cumulative incidence rate, testing rate and testing positivity rates.

In line with the EU Recommendation, there will be no entry restrictions on passengers travelling from green regions. Each Member State will decide what entry restrictions it will apply to passengers travelling from red, orange and grey regions. Requirements for entry to Ireland from these regions will be made available on gov.ie and hse.ie.

Click here for the latest and most up-to-date travel advice for all destinations

Travel to Great Britain from Ireland

Due to the identification of a new strain of COVID-19 in the South-East of England, we strongly advise against all non-essential travel to Great Britain. The consular assistance available to anyone who travels to Great Britain in the current circumstances will be very limited.

Further updates will be published on the DFA.ie Travel Advice. Please check regularly to ensure you have the most up to date advice before you travel.

If you have queries in relation to travel to or from Great Britain, our UK Travel advice line number is +353 01 613 1700.

The Kane's Travel team is always here to help and advise. Call us on 043-3334500 or email mary@kanestravel.ie and we will get back to you.

Written by Lyndsay Considine