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Travellers into Ireland to be subject to mandatory quarantine at home or in a hotel, government says

Micheál Martin announced the extended measures this afternoon.

File image of Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking earlier this month.
File image of Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking earlier this month.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

Updated Jan 26th 2021, 6:16 PM

THE TAOISEACH HAS confirmed that Level 5 measures will remain in place until 5 March.

Micheál Martin said at a press conference this afternoon that the restrictions had been shown to have a positive effect in recent weeks, but that an extension of Level 5 was necessary if the number of patients in hospital was to be driven downwards.

A further tightening of incoming travel has also been confirmed, including mandatory 14-day quarantine in hotels for arrivals from ‘high-risk areas’ such as Brazil and South Africa and those without a negative PCR test.

The government also said that those entering the country from non ‘high-risk’ areas will be required to self-isolate at home by law for the first time.

Arrivals into the country from other red region countries, will still require a negative PCR test, but they will be allowed to leave their home if they can produce a negative PCR test five days after they arrive into the country.

These regulations will apply to anyone who travels into Ireland from any port or airport on the island, including ports and airports in Northern Ireland.

Visa-free travel from South Africa and Brazil will also be suspended until 5 March, while extra gardaí will be deployed at airports and ports to police the new travel restrictions.

“We must stay focused on the measures that will bring this disease under control, and which we as a country are in a position to deliver,” Martin said.

“The road we are on is hard. The length of time that we’ve had to live with restrictions and the proximity of vaccination makes it even harder, but it is the road we must take together.

“We have done it before. And we can do it again.”

The measures were agreed by members of the Cabinet today.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it would take a number of weeks for the travel restrictions to become operational, due to a need by the government to find locations where incoming passengers can quarantine.

In a statement, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) said that the sector will engage with authorities with regards to providing quarantine facilities. 

“We expect that the number of hotels required will be small and in the vicinity of airports. Participation will be a matter for individual hotels.,” IHF president Elaina Fitzgerald Kane said. 

When considering the provision of facilities for quarantine purposes, decisions will have to be made around the suitability of the property from a structural and location perspective and some of the current safety protocols may need to be reviewed, depending on the nature of the support that is being provided.

 

Border 

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan also suggested that gardaí will be able to turn people back at the border if they come from the North for a non-essential journey, but that this will not happen if individuals are travelling to an airport.

The Taoiseach said that the majority of people travelling into the country at present are Irish citizens, but added that “quite a number went on holidays during the Christmas period and are coming back”.

“I think that’s why a lot of the emphasis is on actually what we can do domestically to reduce non-essential travel by our citizens overseas, it’s a very important aspect of this and that’s why the extra garda checkpoints at airports and ports will have an impact.”

It is understood that depending on the pattern of the virus, the economy will be re-opened on a phased basis from April.

This would be similar to the approach taken heading into the summer last year, with guidance on home visits gradually relaxed and more shops and services gradually opening up. 

Speaking last night, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that “what we’ll have to do on this occasion is any easing of restrictions which will have to be very, very, slow. More like the way we eased restrictions after the first wave”.

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“It might start off very slow, maybe just with some retail, with maybe being allowed to meet two people outdoors, it’s going to be a very slow unwinding of restrictions but you know if we can get the figures down very low, that becomes a possibility,” he said on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live programme. 

Government sources state that people need to understand that it won’t be a return to normality if restrictions do begin to lift this year, even with the vaccine numbers on the rise. 

With reporting by Christina Finn,  Orla Dwyer and Rónán Duffy

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