Lockdown restrictions are being eased across the world and governments are starting to face up to the economic impact of the pandemic. Mr Varadkar warned of a “coming economic crisis” that could be “very divisive” for the country. And he admitting Ireland was now wresting with a dilemma over international travel.
Mr Varadkar, who has been relegated from taoiseach (prime minister of Ireland) to tanaiste (deputy prime minister) following the creation of a new government, said: “The worry now is international travel.
“Even though we’re part of the European Union we’re also an island, we’re not part of the Schengen area and we have border controls at our ports and airports.
“We’re a little bit concerned about restoring international travel.”
He continued: “We’re a connected country. We want people to be able to travel again for business and holidays.
“But one real risk for us is that the virus could come back into the country from America, Britain, France other places where it isn’t under control the way it is here.”
Speaking during a virtual event hosted by the Washington-based Atlantic Council, Mr Varadkar said Ireland had been hard hit by COVID-19 but had now got the number of new cases to below ten on most days.
But a looming economic crisis created by the pandemic is causing serious concern for the new government Dublin.
CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Coronavirus map LIVE: Boris Johnson faces backlash with legal threat
Mr Varadkar said: “For us the economic situation is very worrying.
“If you include subsidised employment and government schemes and so on, we’re well over 20 percent unemployment now.
“We had full employment in February so it’s a very serious economic crisis and one that’s very unequal.
“It’s the private sector workers who have lost their jobs whereas the public sector did not.
Mr Varadkar, whose new post as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Business makes him responsible for job creation, said Ireland supported the EU-wide coronavirus recovery fund.
But he said measures taken by member states to restore their economies will be mostly unilateral.
He said: “We had a budget surplus for the last two years, but this year we’ll have a deficit in the region of 10 percent of our GDP.
“We had to do that, to put in a social safety net, so people don’t fall into poverty, and now to get our businesses open again and growing again.
“But the fear is always there of a second wave that could set us back.”