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Further EU countries to be added to Ireland’s quarantine list

France, Italy and Germany could join Austria on the list.

Image: PA

PEOPLE TRAVELLING FROM some European Union countries could be forced to isolate in Ireland’s mandatory quarantine hotels.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said that more EU countries are to be added to the quarantine list.

France, Italy and Germany could be included, with Ryan saying the Government has been responding to the public’s concerns over the high rates of infections in those countries.

It comes as 26 more countries were added to the list last week.

Speaking to reporters at the Citywest vaccination centre this afternoon, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he is open to adding European countries to the list. 

Countries with the evidence of the variants is the priority of government, “and that will happen”, he said.

However, he added there is other criteria under consideration, such as countries with high incidence rates, which might not have evidence of variants being widespread.

The question now is if it is proportionate to have restrictions in place such as mandatory hotel quarantine simply for countries that have higher rates of Covid-19 than Ireland.

The Taoiseach said discussions are ongoing on that matter. 

He said we’re not at the stage of capping the number of arrivals into Ireland.

As of 4am on Tuesday, anyone arriving in Ireland from the flagged countries must quarantine for 12 nights at a designated hotel.

Israel, Albania, Palestine, Bahrain, Nigeria, the Philippines, Monaco, Oman and Qatar are among the new additions.

Plans to include the US, France, Italy and Germany were abandoned amid division among ministers. However, the Government now looks set to add some of those countries in the next week.

Ryan said: “Additional countries will be added – for some people that presents a real burden but it’s a burden I think we’ll have to bear because we want to err on the side of caution.

“I would expect that a sort of decision like this would probably be approved by Cabinet next Tuesday.

“It would probably take us a number of days after that to implement whatever measures, but that’s what I was expecting.

“We are going to have to adapt because the numbers will change and therefore the circumstances will change and the advice will change, and we will have to be fairly quick and adapt.

“I expect the expert advice will show what we can all see in the daily numbers that the rate of incidence is very high and the concern about variance is very significant. So, we will heed that advice.”

Minister for higher education Simon Harris said that the public health advice on mandatory quarantine is necessary.

Speaking outside Government Buildings in Dublin, he said hotel quarantine presents challenges to people but added: “The virus doesn’t care whether you were abroad because you were a student or not a student.”

“The reason we have mandatory quarantine in place is to prevent new variants coming into the country.

“It doesn’t matter whether that new variant is brought in by a student, a worker, someone on a holiday, that won’t matter diddly squat to people in this country if we bring in new variants.

“The approach we take is we follow the public health advice.

“The legislation is clear.

“At the moment there is only one European country on the mandatory quarantine list, and that is Austria.

“Obviously if that approach changes next week we will provide advice and information and also practical support to students returning from the other European countries.”

There has been an ongoing row between the Department of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs over adding countries to the mandatory quarantine list. 

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Critics of way in which this has been handled have said there have been no clear answers given as to whether the country has the hotel capacity to deal with the additions on the list, what happens with stranded Irish citizens abroad, as well as larger issues like is it a breach of EU citizens’ rights as regards freedom of movement. 

One of the main issues of concerns from some in government that are skeptical of expanding the programme is the exit strategy. 

While it appears to be clear that additional EU countries will be added, discussions are ongoing about what restrictions might be placed on such arrivals.

Some sources have called for a “more logical” approach to mandatory hotel quarantine that would allow for five days detention in a hotel, with double testing for all arrivals, as well as exemptions for those that are vaccinated, as is the case in the US.

There continue to be concerns in government circles that while the focus is on expanding the mandatory hotel qurantine regime, travellers can still avail of flying into Belfast, via other countries, and enter over the border.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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