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Restrictions for March to be set out 'with clarity' this week, minister says

Legislation on mandatory hotel quarantine is due to come before the Dáil this week.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

RESTRICTIONS FOR THE month of March are to be laid out this week, according to a government minister.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has said that the measures which will be in place next month will be set out after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The restrictions will be reviewed on a monthly basis.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week in Politics, O’Gorman said that the “measures for March will be set out with clarity after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and that will continue on a monthly basis as we go into the summer”.

Beyond the reopening of schools, no major easing of restrictions is expected until May.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Irish Mirror earlier this week that restrictions would remain in place until at least the end of April, which was followed with disappointment from some that the information had not been delivered through an official announcement.

O’Gorman said that “people want to know information and people need to hear that from the government, and when the Taoiseach was asked a direct question, rather than try to avoid and obfuscate, he gave an answer and to give people an indication of where we’re going with the new measures”.

“The Taoiseach was probably expressing the caution that he was hearing from NPHET that because of the presence of the UK variant here, because numbers are remaining high, he was trying to convey to the public that there has to be caution,” O’Gorman said.

“Even though I think the rollout of the vaccine is generating a degree of optimism with over 310,000 doses administered so far, the Taoiseach was making it clear that NPHET’s advice was we have to take it month by month and a slow, gradual, safe reopening of society, beginning with education and childcare,” he said.

On the government’s agenda is mandatory quarantine legislation that will require large numbers of passengers into Ireland to isolate in a hotel for 14 days.

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

O’Gorman said that legislation on the mandatory quarantine is to be introduced in the Dáil in the coming days.

“It’s a complex piece of legislation. It has to balance those public health requirements with civil liberties issues,” O’Gorman said.

“But I think once that is introduced and you have that compulsion for countries on the red list – 20 at the moment and that list is obviously kept under review – once you have the compulsion to isolate in a hotel for 14 days, it’s going to significantly act as a disincentive to people traveling to this country and that will continue to work to suppress travel and suppress the virus.”

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.

Three cases of the P.1. Covid-19 variant, which was first identified in Brazil, were notified to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre this week.

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The cases are directly linked to travel from Brazil and were identified after the travellers presented themselves for testing in line with public health requirements.

O’Gorman said that the identification of the three cases was an example of the system working properly. 

However, Social Democrats TD said that she thought “to say the system is working is just untrue”.

“The mandatory hotel quarantining, the legislation for that was announced four weeks ago, so it will likely be six weeks or more when the emergency legislation is introduced,” Cairns said.

“It’s not being treated with the urgency that we need to treat it with and we know how quickly the government can rush through legislation when they want to,” she said.

Breaching the mandatory quarantine measures will come with a fine of  €4,000 or one month in prison for a first offence, raising to a fine of €4,500 and /or one month in prison for a second offence and €5,000 and /or six months in prison for a third offence.

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