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Stephen Donnelly says capping arrivals from states on hotel quarantine list 'possible' in future

Several more countries were added to the list last week.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said it is “possible” that Ireland could introduce limits on arrivals from countries on the ‘Category 2′ list in future if demand for hotel quarantine outstrips available capacity.

From Thursday, passengers from 49 countries – including the US, Canada and France – will be required to stay in a designated hotel for two weeks after arriving into Ireland.

The State currently has 650 spaces available in designated hotels for those who have to quarantine, and is expecting to increase this to more than 1,100 spaces after several more countries were added to the list last Friday.

The number of spaces is based on an expected decrease of 80% to 90% of passengers arriving from countries on the list, but concerns have been raised about whether the system will be able to cope if those reductions to not materialise.

Government officials raised particular concern before the list was expanded last week that significant numbers of Irish citizens, including students on Erasmus or those on long-term visas, could be seeking to travel home from countries earmarked for inclusion.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland programme earlier, Donnelly suggested that the government would add capacity on an ongoing basis in response to travel numbers.

Asked whether a cap on incoming visitors could be introduced, like the system which exists in Australia and New Zealand, the minister did not rule this out.

“It is the case, as with the New Zealand system, the Australian system and other quarantine systems, that you may not in all cases be able to have a room allocated on every single day that you may want to travel,” he said.

“[A cap on incoming passengers] is possible, certainly.  That’s the system that the Australians and the New Zealanders run.

“The way that would work really is allocation based on room availability. But for the system that we have in place, what we want to do is we want to match supply to demand.”

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Donnelly also responded to reports in a Sunday newspaper that passenger numbers on flights from the US to Ireland had significantly increased ahead of the requirement for incoming travellers to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine from this week.

The minister explained that the gap between the addition of the countries to the list on Friday and the beginning of the quarantine requirement on Thursday was designed to give passengers time to book into designated hotels.

“What we don’t want is a situation whereby you have a lot of people who are already scheduled to come back to Ireland, who are arriving to Dublin Airport or Rosslare Port, or anywhere else, and they haven’t booked,” he said.

“What we want is a system that can be managed whereby people can book in.”

The minister said that there would “inevitably” be people looking to travel between the time a country was added to the list and the time its designation became active, adding that this was “perfectly natural”.

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