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Government considering whether to make it mandatory for a person to restrict their movements

Varadkar said it is under consideration for “certain circumstances”.

The Taoiseach says we need to be realistic about travel and the risk it poses.
The Taoiseach says we need to be realistic about travel and the risk it poses.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT IS considering whether it should make it mandatory or legally enforceable for someone to restrict their movements or self isolate if they are a close contact or a confirmed case.

Speaking about the new EU traffic light system that will become operational in Ireland on Sunday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said testing in relation to travel is going to be particularly important “given that as we get the numbers down the risk of reseeding becomes higher and we want to avoid that”.

One of the issues the government is considering is enforcement, Varadkar told the Dáil, though he indicated that it would not be applied to international travel.

At the moment the requirement for a person to restrict his or her movements having come in from abroad is not mandatory. Neither is it mandatory for a person to restrict his or her movements if he or she is a close contact, explained Varadkar, stating that that is a much higher risk than international travel.

“Consequently, one thing we are giving consideration to as a Government is whether we need to make mandatory and make legally enforceable the requirement for a person to restrict his or her movements or self-isolate in certain circumstances,” he said. 

However, he said it would “not make sense to apply that to international travel”, as it is actually a lower risk than somebody who is positive not self-isolating or somebody who is a close contact not restricting their movements.

“We need to be proportionate in that regard,” he said. 

While the Tánaiste said international travel is a risk, “we also need to be realistic about that too”, he said.

“We are an island country but we are not an island state. We share a land border with Northern Ireland that is wide open. There is a relatively liberal regime in Northern Ireland for international travel. There are no restrictions on travel to Britain and a very extensive green list, much more extensive than ours.

“We do not detect an appetite from the Northern Ireland Executive to change that. We need to be very realistic about that. We could have very strict rules at our airports but they could be made a mockery of by virtue of the fact that we have open travel with Northern Ireland which obviously we are not going to restrict,” he said. 

As reported by TheJournal.ie last week, from midnight on 8 November, the government is planning that the requirement for those arriving from orange locations to restrict their movements is due to be waived, if they have a negative test result up to three days before arrival.

While the current requirement for a person to restrict their movements for 14 days following arrival from a ‘red’ region remains until further notice, the Government is planning that as soon as it is practicable, this requirement can be waived following a negative result from an approved Covid-19 test taken five days after arrival.

Testing requirements for arrivals from red countries will be in place “in a matter of weeks”, according Transport Minister Eamon Ryan.

Speaking before a Oireachtas committee yesterday, he confirmed testing for departures from Ireland could be rolled out in a matter of weeks.

Speaking about mandatory quarantine, Ryan said we don’t have such a system and it would be very difficult to roll out such a system. 

“Our system is compliance based system,” he said. Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan previously recommended that all arrivals from international flights should be held in state facilities for 14 days – something the government ruled out early in the pandemic. 

Pre-departure test requirements from amber and red areas is aimed at reducing the risk of the virus being reseeded into the country, Varadkar said today.

He said testing is going to be particularly important” given that as we get the numbers down the risk of reseeding becomes higher and we want to avoid that”.

Varadkar said the government is “very much advising people that we are in a Level 5 period. Under level 5 restrictions a person is not supposed to go more that 5 km from his or her home, except for work, education or compassionate reasons such as caring for a relative. That applies to international travel too, so if people are travelling internationally it should only be for work, education or a compassionate reason which may involve, for example, having to care for a relative,” he said. 

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The new system, which applies to regions rather than country, determines the rules around foreign travel.

Social Democrats co-leaders Catherine Murphy said in the absence of testing at ports and airports, “we are effectively taking a fingers-crossed approach”. 

Speaking about Level 5, Varadkar said “we are saying very definitely is that Level 5 is for six weeks”.

“We want to get the number of cases down as low as possible before considering the state of restrictions. We don’t have a decision yet to tell people what level we move to on 1 December.

“But I do take your point that businesses need to prepare and families need to be as open as possible.”

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