Gardai policing checkpoints at Dublin Airport have been turning back ‘dozens’ of people a week who have been trying to travel to Lithuania for Botox treatment.
Most of these people returned home after being told by gardaí they are liable for a €500 fine for non-essential travel, but some continued with their trip.
Sources said that while the ‘vast majority’ are being turned back, a ‘small few’ are continuing on their journey.
‘Those trips are deemed unnecessary and non-essential. The vast majority are turned back, very few continue on their way,’ a source said. ‘Dozens’ more have attempted to travel to eastern Europe for cosmetic surgery and dental treatment despite the current 5km travel restriction.
Under Level 5, reasons for travelling from Ireland include seeking ‘essential medical, health, or dental services’, or accompanying someone you live with who needs essential treatment. The numbers attempting to travel for cosmetic reasons were higher, but are understood to have fallen in recent days.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris told Friday night’s Late Late Show that gardaí have ‘changed their approach’ at airport checkpoints following reports that people were booking dental appointments in Tenerife to avoid being fined for non-essential travel.
Mr Harris – who revealed he had Covid-19 at Christmas – said ‘medical intervention, medical treatment is allowed for in the regulations but that is against the clause about how reasonable it is’ when asked about people travelling to Tenerife for dental appointments.
‘I would suggest that travelling to Tenerife, thousands of kilometres, whenever there are perfectly good dentists here in Ireland is not reasonable,’ he said. ‘From this morning we have changed our approach. We warned people that they may be prosecuted if they carry on on their journey. We don’t regard a dentist’s appointment in Tenerife as being a reasonable excuse to travel.
He said: ‘From this morning [Friday], we warn people that we do not regard a dentist’s appointment as a reasonable excuse to travel and that they may be prosecuted if they carry on with their journey.’ He said the €500 fine was not the deterrent they thought it might be but ‘today we found that people have turned back rather than be prosecuted and risk imprisonment or a suspended sentence’.
‘We hope that will send a message in terms of non-essential international travel. There is travel for medical purposes which, obviously, is essential, people travelling for critical treatment, but that’s not dental treatment.’ The commissioner said that, overall, gardaí have seen a high level of ‘compliance’ with restrictions, but there has been ‘irresponsible behaviour’.
On Saturday, a Tenerife dental surgery said that it is willing to give the names of 50 Irish people who booked but did not turn up for dental appointments to the gardaí. Staff suspect the bookings were made to get around Ireland’s travel restrictions. The appointments were mostly by young couples in Dublin. Most failed to attend.