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Mandatory quarantine proposals will be seen as harsh by some and insufficient by others, says minister

The new legislation is being debated in the Dáil this afternoon.

Image: RollingNews.ie

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said there are differing views on new mandatory quarantine legislation, stating that some regard it as “harsh”, while others say it is “insufficient”.

The proposed legislation is currently being debated in the Dáil, though it could be a matter of weeks before it makes its way through both Houses of the Oireachtas, and comes into effect.

Mandatory quarantine legislation will require travellers from areas where there is known to be high transmission of Covid-19 or variants to isolate in a hotel for 14 days.

Cabinet previously signed off on quarantine measures for arrivals from 20 countries and anyone without a negative PCR test last week.

Brazil, the UAE, Austria and 17 countries in Africa are on the government’s Category 2 list, which requires passengers travelling from those countries to isolate at home for 14 days after arrival.

Speaking in the Dáil, Donnelly said there were around 10,500 arrivals into Dublin Airport last week, between 1,000 to 3,500 passengers each day.

He said the Government believes the risk of importing variants, “and the potential risk on the impact of our vaccination programme, means we must act”.

His comments come as the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar defended the government’s “differentiated approach” to mandatory quarantine for overseas travellers, saying that all countries shouldn’t be treated the same.

“There are places in the world where the virus either is at a very low level or there’s no community transmission,” he told Morning Ireland.

“Say in theory somebody wants to fly here from the Isle of Man or from Iceland, for example, why would you put them in 14 days hotel quarantine when there is no Covid in those places?

“We may find over the course of the summer and maybe next year that there are places where Covid is very low or successfully suppressed and we could then have a travel bubble with those places.”

‘Makes sense’

Varadkar said the “differentiated approach” to mandatory hotel quarantine “makes sense” rather than a blanket ban.

The Tánaiste previously said that if a full-scale mandatory quarantine was imposed, it could be 18 months before it was lifted, and would have serious impact on trade, and food supplies, given we are an island nation. 

TheJournal.ie revealed that those travelling to Ireland to attend a funeral from one of the 20 counties listed, will have to quarantine for 14 days, with no exceptions.

Opposition TDs have criticised the government’s move for not going far enough and say it should be extended to everyone arriving in the country.

They pointed out that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommended that all arrivals into the country be held in State facilities last May.

The current government was not in place at the time, but it was reported then that the issue was a real flash-point around the Cabinet table. 

Government has argued that at the time, there was no talk of new variants, and that Ireland was, and still is, part of the European Union’s traffic light system, which at one point during the summer allowed for international travel to green listed countries.

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.

Labour’s Alan Kelly said today that there is no excuse for keeping residents under 5km limit while most international arrivals don’t face hotel quarantine. He said he was also concerned to hear that more than 2,000 Brazilian seasonal workers arrived into Ireland. 

He called the Tánaiste’s comments about the Isle of Man “unbelievable”, stating that the “variants are on tour”, and we “need to protect our own people”. 

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Labour’s Duncan Smith said he doesn’t think the government’s heart is in the legislation, and it hopes if the vaccination programme ramps up, the government will not have to roll out mandatory quarantine. 

Sinn Fein’s David Cullinane told the Dáil today that when people are playing their part, they get frustrated when the government will not go the “full distance in relation to mandatory testing and quarantine on travel”.

He said there is fear out there that we will lose control of the virus.

“That is a really really serious issue, because when people lose confidence in the process, I think that is very very dangerous. I want people to have confidence in the government, to have confidence in the process, to have confidence in the ability of the government to be able to deliver. But I have to say that people are losing faith,” he said.

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