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Fully vaccinated people are to be exempt from mandatory hotel quarantine

The Minister for Health made the announcement this evening.

Image: Sam Boal

THE GOVERNMENT IS to allow fully vaccinated people to be exempt from staying in mandatory hotel quarantine, and will instead quarantine at home.

Pending legal changes that will be necessary, the change will come into effect in the coming days.

The announcement comes after calls from vaccinated Israeli citizens to be exempt, and after political support was shown for the measure – with Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris saying that it was “illogical” that fully vaccinated people would need to quarantine in hotels.

At the NPHET briefing this evening, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn was asked if NPHET was happy with fully vaccinated people being exempt from mandatory hotel quarantine. He said:

“We’re keeping all of that under review, obviously I understand the political will [to do that]. We’re looking at the public health perspective on that at present.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said in a statement this evening: “The Government decision last week was for a rapid review to be conducted. I have now received advice from the Acting Chief Medical Officer, which I have accepted.”

Donnelly told RTÉ’s Prime Time that he received advice from Glynn at around 7.30pm.

“Legal regulations will now be required to exempt fully vaccinated people from Mandatory Hotel Quarantine and allow them complete home quarantine,” Donnelly said.

Minister Stephen Donnelly also announced that an increase to capacity in the hotel quarantine system is to come on line from this Saturday.

It comes after the Minister announced on Tuesday night that the booking system would be ‘paused’, to allow for a ramp up in the system. Countries including the US, Canada, France and Italy were included on the ‘category 2′ list from 4am today.

An additional 305 rooms, two days ahead of schedule, will be ready to start taking bookings for those arriving Saturday 17 April onwards, adding to the original 650.

  • From Saturday 17 April there will be 959 rooms in the system
  • By Friday 23 April capacity will increase to 1,189 rooms
  • By Monday 26 April capacity will increase to 1,607 rooms.

The government’s website for making bookings in the mandatory hotel quarantine system will come back online from “late this evening”, the Minister stated. 

To date, 18 people in mandatory hotel quarantine have tested positive for Covid-19, of which four involve probable variants of concern.

The Minister said: “I welcome the intensive efforts made by both officials in my Department and the Tifco Hotel Group to bring about this increased capacity. Mandatory hotel quarantine is a very important public health measure and ensures we continue to have the strongest border biosecurity measures in Europe.”

Questioning from the European Commission

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SDonnelly Source: RTÉ News Now

In response to questions that the mandatory hotel quarantine violate EU laws around freedom of movement, and reports from the Irish Times that the European Commission is in touch Irish authorities to raise some of its concerns, Donnelly told RTÉ’s Prime Time that the Commission is “wrong”.

“If the Commission is telling me as Minister for Health that we should act contrary to the public health advice, which I have a lot of faith in, and that we should let people in from identified variant-of-concern countries with no impediments, that’s something that I simply [reject].”

When asked if the Commission is wrong, Donnelly said that based on his legal advice, and in his opinion “yes”.

“What’s fundamental is that we protect the people living in this country from Covid and from variants, and I make no apologies to the Commission, to the Italian ambassador [who called MHQ "selective and discriminatory"] or to anybody else, for putting in place the measures that we believe, and our public health teams believe, are the right measures to keep people in this country safe. That’s what we’ve done.”

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