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Simon Harris: We need more measures to 'toughen up' on self-isolation for people entering country

The minister said he would like this requirement backed up by the law.

Minister for Health Simon Harris speaking to media in the Department of Health yesterday.
Minister for Health Simon Harris speaking to media in the Department of Health yesterday.
Image: LEAH FARRELL; RollingNews.ie

THE MINISTER FOR Health Simon Harris has said Ireland needs to take further measures to “toughen up” checks at airports and ports to ensure people are self-isolating when entering the country.

Harris said he would like this requirement to be backed up by relevant law which is being worked on this week. 

“I do think we need to take further measures to toughen up at our airports and ports,” Harris told Dermot and Dave on Today FM this morning. 

“We already have the form you’ve got to fill in and you can be contacted to check that you are self-isolating, but I’d like to underpin this by regulation so that it is that it is the law of the land.

“We’re going to give that quite a lot of effort now in the coming days to try and get that over the line.”

Harris confirmed to TheJournal.ie at the beginning of May that new laws were being worked on to underpin the passenger locator form people arriving in Ireland have to fill out when arriving at the airport.

Harris confirmed that the Taoiseach had asked a number of ministries to work with the Attorney General on the copper-fastening of the self-isolation rules through regulation, stating “we will make a decision on that in the coming weeks”.

Currently, any person who enters Ireland from overseas is required to self-isolate for two weeks. This is the longest potential incubation period for Covid-19. 

This rule also applies to Irish citizens returning home. 

People are asked to fill out a form before arriving in Ireland with details of where they will spend this period. 

It is understood the regulations are being considered by government which would give gardaí the power to check up on passengers arriving in Ireland from overseas.

The regulations are being drafted by the Attorney General, but it is believed they are not near completion at this stage.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said people arriving from abroad will have to self-isolate for 14 days and provide a home address, however countries like the Republic of Ireland and France are understood to be exempt from this rule. 

Simon Harris said these kind of exceptions will not be created in Ireland.  

“Whether you’re Irish, whether you’re British, French, German, doesn’t matter. If you come to Ireland and arrive through one of our airports, we expect you to self-isolate for two weeks. 

“And the reason we do that is there’s a chance you could come into our country you could have the virus within you but may not know it, and we need to make sure that you fill out a form, let us know where you’re planning on staying for those two weeks.”

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Harris added that although Ireland has advantages in its connectivity with the world and the European Union, “we don’t want people to be travelling” at the moment. 

“We don’t want people to be making non-essential visits… Anytime there’s increased movement, you cause an increased risk of the spread of this virus.” 

In an interview with the minister recently, Harris said the government will lift all of the restrictions as quickly as it can “but at the moment, there isn’t a date in the calendar in which this [measure] will be definitively lifted”.

He hoped for travel restrictions to be lifted later in the year, he said.

He added: “I think lots of us would like that to be the case. And maybe it’ll be possible to have staycations, where people can take a holiday within their own country.”

With reporting by Christina Finn

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