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A person walking through Dublin Airport,

Confusion reigns over mandatory quarantine rules for arrivals from Britain

The HSE had changed advice on its website but the DFA has said the situation has not changed.

THERE HAVE BEEN calls for clarity over the advice and obligations for arrivals from Great Britain following confusion brought about by the introduction of new travel measures. 

Yesterday, the government announced new measures which force people arriving into this country to undertake mandatory quarantine either at home or in a hotel.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar stated that “in most cases” people would be quarantining at home.

Persons arriving from Brazil and South Africa or those without a negative PCR test will be required to quarantine in a designated facility such as a hotel, with that quarantine lasting for 14-days.  

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that arrivals from all countries except South Africa and Brazil will be able to end their quarantine with a negative PCR test taken five days after arrival.

This has led to questions about arrivals from Great Britain and whether they can also do so when the measures come into force. 

Prior to yesterday, Brazil, South Africa and Great Britain were subject to the same HSE advice. The advice stated that those arriving from those areas must self-isolate for the full 14 days regardless of a negative PCR test.

Self-isolation is stricter than restricting movements as it essentially asks people to stay in their rooms. Both come under the umbrella term of quarantine. 


Last night, the HSE’s website outlining the advice around self-isolation after travel was updated to remove the reference to Great Britain. contacted the HSE about this change and was told to inquire with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). 

A spokesperson for the DFA said that the advice in relation to travel from Great Britain had not changed and that the HSE’s website would be changed again to reflect this. 

The advice remaining the same suggests that people arriving from Great Britain should still self-isolate for 14 days but at home and not in a hotel. 

This is because the Transport Minister implied that Britain does not come under the same mandatory quarantine rules as Brazil and South Africa. was also told by the DFA that details about the mandatory quarantine measures were still being worked out.  

Varadkar said yesterday that it would take “a few weeks to operationalise” the new travel restrictions. 

Traffic light system

The requirement that people arriving into this country quarantine at home essentially gives a legal basis to the previous advice that people restrict their movements for 14 days.

Under the EU’s traffic light system, which the Irish government has signed up to, people are allowed to end their 14-day movement restriction if they receive a negative Covid-19 test that was taken at least five days after arrival. 

This condition is in place for countries that are listed as either red or grey in the weekly ECDC map. Any country that is not part of the EU system is automatically classified as grey. 

Speaking at yesterday’s government announcement, Ryan said this rule remains in place for all countries except Brazil and South Africa.

Ryan said it was “important to stick with our European colleagues” but that concern over new variants of Covid-19 means that some tougher measures need to be in place. 

“So what you might call ‘darker red countries’, the likes of Brazil and South Africa, we’re saying that no it has to be the full 14 days, that that option out, the five day release, won’t apply,” he said. 

Ryan did not specifically mention Britain as part of his response and ‘darker red’ was his term rather than a category in the traffic light system. 

New variants

Before Christmas, the HSE had issued advice for visitors from Britain, saying that they should self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in Ireland regardless of a test result.

The advice had come about as a result of the rapid transmission of Covid-19 in the south of England due to the new variant that had been identified. 

The variant, known as B1117 or the ‘UK variant’, is however now already responsible for the majority of transmissions here in the Republic of Ireland. 

Speaking about the apparent relaxation of the advice for arrivals from Britain, Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said that an explanation was required from the minister. 

“According to the government’s announcement, if UK passengers take a second PCR test after five days, they no longer need to restrict their movements. This is extraordinary given the fact that the UK variant of the virus is now the most prevalent one in our country. The minister needs to urgently clarify the reasoning for this decision,” she said.

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