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Sam Boal

Minister says gardaí will not enter homes to ensure people are quarantining after travel

If people are found not to be at home when they receive a call, they could face a fine of up to €2,500.

LAST UPDATE | 27 Jan 2021

THE MINISTER FOR Justice has said gardaí will not enter homes to ensure people who have travelled abroad observe the new mandatory quarantine.

Yesterday the government announced the request to self-isolate on arrival in Ireland will soon be law.

Those arriving into Ireland from countries other than South Africa or Brazil will be required to isolate at home, with an option to end this isolation after 5 days if they get a negative PCR test result in Ireland.

“We’ve made it fairly clear throughout pandemic that we’re not going to have gardaí going into people’s homes,” McEntee said this morning.

She said the detail will have to be worked through in greater detail in the coming days, but she has already spoken to the Garda Commissioner about it.

“I think what we’re most likely looking at is a situation whereby details will be provided through the passenger locator form when people arrive,” McEntee said.

“Obviously if they’re not going to a new quarantine facility run by the HSE they will be asked to quarantine at home.

“That detail will be available to An Garda Síochána and there will be a certain amount to people who will receive a follow-up call by An Garda Síochána. I don’t think it’s possible to say every single person will receive a call but there will be a significant number of people.”

She said if they are found not to be at home or the “can’t present themselves” they could face a fine of  up to €2,500 or six months in prison.

Garda representatives have expressed concern about the practicality of new measures announced by the Government yesterday.

Antoinette Cunningham of the AGSI said that they had “no idea” how the regulations would work, and had “no instruction”, and “no consultation” prior to the announcement.

She said there are “serious concerns” among AGSI members about how they would check on people who should be quarantining at home on whether they’re adhering to the rules.

“We don’t have the power to go into people’s homes… so we don’t know how this is going to be policed.”

“How often are Gardaí expected to go to people’s home? What happens if people refuse to come to the door?”

This morning Liz Canavan, Assistant General Secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach, said many of the people arriving at ports and airports are Irish residents returning from trips abroad.

“Under Level 5 rules, nobody should be travelling abroad unless it is for a genuinely essential need. That does not include holidays, visiting relatives or friends or staying at a second home,” she said.

She said gardaí have already started conducting checkpoints on routes to the airports and ports and will begin to check people arriving at the airport to see if they left the country in breach of the regulations.

“Where people are determined to ignore the regulations on travel, they will face increased penalties,” Canavan said.

She said gardaí can prosecute for breaches of travel restrictions through a fixed charge notice.

Yesterday the government announced a number of new measures to crackdown on international travel, including:

  • All visa-free short term travel from South Africa and all of South America is suspended until at least 5 March. The Taoiseach said this can be put in place immediately. 
  • Anyone who arrives from Brazil or South Africa will be subject to a mandatory quarantine at a designated facility.
  • Anyone who arrives into the country (from anywhere else) without a pre-departure negative PCR test will also have to quarantine at one of these facilities. They will also be subject to a €2,500 fine or six months imprisonment.
  • Everyone else arriving into the country (once they have a pre-departure negative PCR result) will be required by law to quarantine at home. They can free themselves from this quarantine after five days with a negative PCR test result here in Ireland. 
  • If any countries in the European ‘traffic light’ system move to green or amber (due to a reduction in their incidence), they will not need to quarantine at all once they have a negative pre-departure test.

Concern about funerals

During this morning’s briefing, Canavan also said concerns have been raised about the danger of “dropping our guard” at funerals. Funerals are limited under Level 5 restrictions to ten mourners. 

“Reports of significant numbers of people congregating in homes of bereaved persons and in funeral homes or at churches and graveyards before and after services, are concerning,” she said.

The weather at this time of year can also result in those lining funeral routes congregating in doorways of churches and other areas to seek shelter, she said.

“Every contact increases the risk of transmission of this highly contagious virus, those wishing to express their condolences should do so through social media, online websites, text or card,” she said.

It is vital, despite our natural emotions and our desire to be close to and hug other people to respect the situation we find ourselves in, as we try to convey our sympathies to bereaved families.

The government has also issued a warning about two text and call scams.

The first is a text scam, with messages purporting to be from Revenue that contain a link telling people to click on it to claim a €350 payment.

The second is a scam involves fraudulent texts and calls to member of the public about vaccines, requesting private information such as PPS numbers, a date of birth and address.

“The HSE will never text or call any individuals requesting personal information and they will never request payment for a Covid test or a vaccine,” Canavan said. “Your local GP will be the first point of contact about vaccination or Covid testing.”

She asked that members of the public contact any vulnerable friends or relatives to make them aware of these calls and messages. 

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