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Donnelly meeting with Glynn to discuss whether more countries should be added to mandatory hotel quarantine list

There are currently 20 countries on the ‘category 2′ list.

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said he is meeting with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn later today to discuss whether additional countries should be added to the ‘category 2′ list which requires people arriving from those countries to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks.

The meeting comes as legislation to enforce mandatory hotel quarantine on arrivals from a list of 20 countries passed its final vote in the Dáil, by 103 votes to 10. The Bill now moves on the Seanad.

The minister insisted today that the list may not be limited to just 20 countries, stating that more can be added, if it is deemed necessary and if it is evidence-based.

He says no EU state has mandatory hotel quarantine system in place, and the new Irish system will be the “most robust hotel quarantining system anywhere in the EU”.

The minister also confirmed that those intending to travel into Northern Ireland from the Republic, from a listed country, are expected to observe hotel quarantine.

Cabinet signed off on strict new mandatory quarantine measures for all arrivals from 20 countries last week.

The quarantine measures will apply for arrivals from Brazil, the UAE, Austria and 17 African countries.

It also applies for passengers who arrive into Ireland with no negative PCR test with them.

Persons arriving will have to stay at designated hotels for up to 14 days. Flouting of these rules is expected to met with a heavy fine.

Breaching mandatory quarantine will result in a €4,000 fine or one month in prison for the first offence. The second offence will result in a fine of €4,500 and /or one month in prison, and in the case of the third offence it’s €5,000 and /or six months in prison.

Legislation was introduced into the Dáil this week, and it will make its way to the Seanad next week, before it comes into effect most likely in March.

During Leaders’ Questions Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty raised the issue of mandatory quarantine, stating that people wonder how people can arrive into Ireland while they can’t travel more than 5km.

Doherty told Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, who was taking questions today, that he can’t get his head around the logic of the government.

Ryan said the government is following public health advice from their own officials, the ECDC and WHO.

“We share this island with two jurisdictions,” he said, pointing out one of the key reasons why the government says full mandatory quarantine would not work.

The issue of the border with Northern Ireland has also been an issue raised by those in government as to why mandatory quarantine will not solely prevent the importation of new variants given that there is no PCR testing required or mandatory quarantine upon arrival into Belfast Airport.

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Justice Minister Helen McEntee also told the Dáil this morning that it would not be appropriate to put gardaí at hotels where travellers are placed in mandatory quarantine, as those people have committed no crime.

She said gardaí will be asked to attend if there is a breach of the law in terms of breaking quarantining rules.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said it is appalled at the steamrolling of the Bill through both houses of the Oireachtas, saying it is an !affront to our democratic system of law making”.

“The Bill contains provision for significant interference with fundamental rights and
requires the thorough, effective scrutiny,” said the group, who have written to all elected members urging them to demand that on the expiry date to the legislation of three months from date of commencement.

The ICCL states that the legislation as it stands, creates new criminal offences and provides for an expanded role for the gardaí, which it considers are” unnecessary and potentially disproportionate”.

Highlighting some of its concerns, the group says a new offence for a person to refuse a Covid-19 test has been created in this legislation, which is the first time a Bill proposes to introduce mandatory testing. Given the impact on bodily integrity of a person, the ICCL  highlights the need for a proportionality assessment. 

It also raises concerns about new search powers for gardaí, which raises concerns on the
right to privacy.

“We question whether such powers are necessary and whether their
exercise can be a proportionate interference with the right to privacy in the context of
a public health effort,” the ICCL states.

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