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'Belt and braces approach': Taoiseach says tighter monitoring of anyone entering Ireland is needed

It was confirmed earlier today that licenced festivals and concerts will not go ahead until September at the earliest.

Image: Photocall Ireland

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said health checks in a “belt and braces” fashion is needed to ensure self-isolation for 14 days and tighter monitoring of essential workers who arrive in Ireland from another country.

Varadkar said he would prefer to see essential worker roles filled by Irish people rather than workers from abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic, but that when workers do arrive from other European countries to fill vacancies, tighter restrictions are needed to ensure they are “properly monitored”.

He said new mechanisms would be put in place to monitor people who enter the country before wider foreign travel resumes in the coming months. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time programme this evening, Varadkar was responding to controversy in recent days surrounding the arrival of 189 people through Dublin Airport for seasonal work on farms.

“As far as I’m concerned it should only happen if necessary, and must happen with restrictions to make sure that there are health checks, to make sure self-isolation is observed for 14 days, and we need to put in place a belt and braces approach,” he said. 

We have the belt at the moment, we need the braces too, to make sure that is more tightly monitored.

“Even though the numbers going through airports have been very small, down 99% in terms of passenger travel in the past few weeks, even though we have had people coming through, we have had very few, if any, imported cases in the past few weeks, we just want to make sure there aren’t any now.”

Varadkar said he was proposing stronger rules around people entering Ireland “but I need to contextualise that by saying we already do have those rules”.

“If you come into Ireland from overseas, whether you are an Irish citizen or not, you’re expected to self-restrict your movement for 14 days. What we need to do is tighten that a bit and also have a mechanism to monitor it.”

Varadkar admitted that at present “it is not monitored enough… and I think we need to do more on that, particularly as we reopen the country, and as we reopen foreign travel, we’re going to need to have these mechanisms in place to make sure that there are controls.”

He also insisted that Irish ports and airports must remain open to bring essential supplies into the country, including medical and food supplies. 

“Even though we’re an island, we have a land border with the United Kingdom, i.e Northern Ireland, we’re not going to close that. We’re part of the common travel area with the United Kingdom, we’re also part of the European Union,” he said. 

“We need to keep our borders open in order to allow supplies get in and out, that’s absolutely essential, medical supplies, food, lots of other things. And with them come pilots and hauliers. We also need to keep our borders open so Irish citizens can come home, and essential workers can get in and out.”

“We need to make sure essential means essential and certainly we need to allow cross border workers,” he added. 

The current Covid-19 restrictions in place until 5 May will be reviewed over the coming fortnight. 

It was confirmed earlier today following a meeting of the Cabinet, that no licenced events of more than 5,000 people will go ahead before September at the earliest. 

It means dozens of concerts and outdoor festivals have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak in Ireland. 

Local authorities were advised by Government that event promoters cannot acquire licences for events in excess of 5,000 people “for the period up to the end of August”.

The annual Tidy Towns competition has also become a casualty of the pandemic, with the Department of Rural and Community Development confirming it will also be shelved this year. 

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