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'Add a greater degree of protection': Taoiseach explains decision to add 16 countries to hotel quarantine list

Discussions between the officials have been taking place throughout the week.
Apr 9th 2021, 9:47 PM 115,248 255

Updated Apr 10th 2021, 4:00 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that the decision to add an additional 16 countries to the mandatory hotel quarantine list was due to a public health rationale.

The United States and a number of EU countries – including France, Belgium and Italy – have been added to Ireland’s mandatory hotel quarantine list.

The Cabinet met last night to sign off on adding the 16 additional countries to the list.

Speaking to RTÉ in Cork this afternoon, Martin said that the “fundamental rationale” for adding the 16 countries was “a public health one”.

“We had been advised in the context of variants of concern that adding these countries would add a greater degree of protection at this particular point in time,” said Martin.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced the decision in a statement. The states being added to the list will be prioritised on the booking system next week.

Passengers from these countries will need to book into mandatory quarantine if they arrive into Ireland after 4am on Thursday 15 April. 

The additional countries to be added to the list are: Bangladesh, Belgium, France, Italy, Kenya, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Turkey, the USA, Canada, Armenia, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Curaçao, Maldives, Ukraine.

Albania, Israel and St Lucia have now been removed from the list. 

Anyone who is currently in mandatory hotel quarantine who has travelled from or through these states will still have to complete their period of quarantine. 

Israeli citizens living in Ireland had questioned why Israel was on the mandatory hotel quarantine list when over half of its population is fully vaccinated, and it has a fraction of the Covid-19 incidence rate that Ireland has.

In addition, all travellers into Ireland from non-designated countries must continue to adhere to quarantining at home, and in addition to their arrival negative PCR test, from next week they must have booked through the HSE an appointment for a further test at day five.

As a matter of urgency, the HSPC is to be asked to advise on exempting people who are fully vaccinated from mandatory quarantine.

Donnelly said: “Protecting public health as a matter of urgency has been to the fore of these decisions around mandatory quarantine.

This is another strong move following public health advice relating to variants of concern with Covid-19.

“These variants pose a significant risk to our fight against this disease and our vaccination programme.”

It was reported last week that 43 countries were recommended for inclusion on the list by public health officials.

However, the recommendation, and the manner in which the list was leaked to the public, caused consternation within the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was reported to be privately “furious” about the proposals stating earlier this week that he did not agree with plans to add certain countries to the list.

Concerns were also raised about the recommendations by government figures and the Attorney General.

Discussions between the officials in the Department of Health and Department of Foreign Affairs have been taking place throughout the week to find a solution ahead of next week’s Cabinet meeting. 

The addition of the countries is understood to only be “temporary”, until the case numbers fall in the respective countries. 

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The Taoiseach said earlier this week that mandatory hotel quarantine for people arriving from countries with variants of concern is a “priority for Government”.

He suggested that countries linked to variants of concern will be added to the Government’s hotel quarantine list.

“That will happen, there will be discussions obviously in terms of working through this.

“There was a meeting of senior officials yesterday and progress was made in relation to that,” Martin added.

The Taoiseach denied that the Attorney General had raised issues with the legislation underpinning mandatory hotel quarantine.

He said the concerns were raised because the legislation is grounded “in respect of variants of concern”.

Following the controversy surrounding the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Group on Travel (EAGT), which is tasked with developing a method of risk assessing States, it is understood additional members will be added to the group that will look at the practical aspects of adding countries to the list. 

While the group has raised concerns about the ongoing risk presented by variants of concern, and variants of interest, it has also acknowledged the challenge posed by the limited availability of data relating to the locations and spread of these variants.

- Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer and Tadgh McNally

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