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Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie
Foreign Travel

Mandatory hotel quarantine: 'Weeks' before measures are introduced

The government has said that primary legislation is required.

THE CABINET HAS been told that legislation is required to enforce rules on mandatory quarantining in hotels, delaying the government’s plans to introduce the measure. 

Regulations around the requirement for arrivals to quarantine at home are set to be published in the coming days but the plans for hotel quarantine will take a number of weeks. 

Last week the government sought to clamp down on travel into and out of the country and announced its intention to introduced a system of mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals

In the majority of cases this legally required quarantining would take place in a residence but some would take place in a hotel. 

Anyone traveling to Ireland is currently required to have a negative PCR test before boarding a flight.

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.

The government had said last week that it could take “a few weeks to operationalise” the new travel restrictions but Cabinet heard today that new legislation would be required to keep people in hotels. 

Work is underway on that legislation and it is hoped it would be brought to government “as soon as possible”. 

The need for primary legislation is needed due to concerns over competing rights related to civil liberties and freedom of movement. Such concerns were raised previously and led to a reluctance to introduce such measures.  

A government spokesperson said today that guidelines will also need to be drawn up about the requirements of those being kept in quarantine. 

“The State must also ensure the safety, health and well-being of quarantined travelers for the duration of the quarantine. This will include the need to ensure appropriate arrangements in relation to such matters as healthcare, nutrition, exercise and security,” they said. 

While arrivals from Brazil and South Africa will first be subject to the 14-day quarantine rules, the Taoiseach has said that other countries could be added to that list if required.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said this evening that any expansion of that list would be based on advice from European counterparts and the Chief Medical Officer.

A government spokesperson said this evening that the legislation being drafted would allow for other countries to be added to the list without further legislation.

The legislation will also lay out the responsibility of those staying in the hotels to bear the cost of the quarantine. 

Home quarantine

While it may be weeks before legislation around mandatory quarantine in hotels is published, regulations requiring people to quarantine at home are expected to be published in days. 

People will be required to quarantine for 14 days in the residence listed on their passenger locator form, but this quarantine can end if they receive a negative PCR test taken five days after arrival.

A government spokesperson confirmed that this regulation also applies to arrivals from Great Britain. 

There had been confusion over the status of arrivals from Great Britain due to HSE advice to quarantine for a full two weeks but it’s not been confirmed that GB arrivals are in the same category as those from countries that are not South Africa or Brazil. 

Yesterday it was confirmed that the penalty for people travelling to the airport for the purposes of travel was increased to €500.

Previously people caught at the airport were dealt with under regulations against non-essential travel from home and were subject to a €100 fine. A total of 280 people received such a fine between Thursday to Sunday

Foreign travel

With the government’s plans for mandatory quarantine not yet up and running, opposition parties have already said it does not go far enough. 

Labour’s Alan Kelly described news from the UK that the dominant variant was picking up new mutations as “deeply concerning”.

“We need to see mandatory hotel quarantine for everyone travelling into Ireland with PCR tests upon arrival and after five days. These new variants can come from anywhere, not just the country of origin. If we are serious about eradicating Covid-19 from our communities, quarantining of all arrivals must be mandatory,” he said. 

Richard Boyd-Barrett TD of People Before Profit told reporters earlier that it “mystifying” that the government would not pursue a Zero-Covid strategy. 

“We find it mystifying that the government and NPHET would not see the value of trying to eliminate community transmission so that we could have some possibility of opening up in a sustainable way,” he said. 

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