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Delta Variant

Tighter travel restrictions on arrivals from Britain into Ireland take immediate effect

The Irish Government is closely monitoring the spread of the Delta variant here.

LAST UPDATE | 15 Jun 2021

PEOPLE WHO AREN’T fully vaccinated and are travelling from Britain to Ireland will have to self-quarantine for 14 days after they arrive, Cabinet has agreed.

The new travel restrictions take effect immediately. The 14-day self-quarantine is a legal requirement, even if the person has travelled into Ireland via Northern Ireland.

This period can be reduced to 10 days, if they receive two negative PCR tests taken on day 5 and day 10 after arriving in Ireland. These tests can be availed of free of charge.

Fully vaccinated people who are travelling from Britain to Ireland will still have to self-quarantine for five days, and if they test negative for Covid-19 through PCR testing on their fifth day since their arrival, their quarantine period will end. 

It had been expected that fully vaccinated people travelling from Britain wouldn’t need to quarantine at all upon arrival in Ireland – however, Cabinet agreed to require them to self-quarantine for at least five days.

At present, passengers arriving here from Britain are requested to quarantine at a home address for 14 days, but can end this self-quarantine with a negative Covid-19 PCR test result after five days. This now only applies to fully vaccinated people from GB.

Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris had said earlier today that there needed to be a visible “bonus” from being vaccinated, and a trust in their effect in reducing both severe illness and transmission from Covid-19.

Self-quarantine does not take place at a designated hotel, and can be at the person’s home or where they are staying during their visit.

There is no change to how quarantine at home is enforced, which currently involves reminder texts, phone calls and Garda checks to ask if travellers are self-quarantining at the address they gave.

It is understood that Cabinet did not discuss introducing mandatory hotel quarantine as a requirement for those travelling to Ireland from Britain.

The Delta variant

Though Covid-19 figures in Ireland don’t show widespread transmission of the Delta variant, first detected in India, the government is concerned at the highly transmissible Covid variant’s potential to lead to a surge.

At Cabinet today, ministers were told that 56% of the Irish adult population have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and 25% have received the second dose.

In the space of a week, up until Monday 13 June, 2,270 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported, which was a drop of 21.3% on the previous week.

There are currently nine counties in Ireland with Covid-19 cases above 100 per 100,000 of the population.

The number of Delta variant cases in Ireland has increased to 139. In Northern Ireland, 111 probable and confirmed cases of the variant were detected up to last week.

In a statement this evening, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “At the moment, variants of concern continue to pose significant risks to public health, and there is a specific concern around the Delta variant.

“Non-essential travel should continue to be avoided, however, if you must travel to Ireland from Great Britain then you should follow the public health advice relating to home quarantine and you are advised to avail of the free day 5 and day 10 PCR testing.

Last week, I launched a booking portal that allows anyone travelling to Ireland book a PCR test for no less than 5 days after arrival to Ireland. Those travelling from Great Britain who have not been fully vaccinated, are now advised to arrange a test for day 5 and for day 10. If you receive a non-detected result from both your day 5 and day 10 tests it is safe to cease your home quarantine.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the Government was continuing to monitor the Delta variant of Covid-19.

The move comes as British officials have delayed the reopening of their society for four weeks. The stricter travel arrangements in Ireland are expected to last until 19 July,when the Digital Covid Certificate is expected to come into force.

It’s not yet known exactly how people will apply for that Covid-19 certificate.

Increase in restrictions ‘proportionate’

Speaking at a press briefing outside Government Buildings, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said that the increased restrictions for those people travelling from Great Britain were “proportionate”. 

What it’s saying is, even if you are fully vaccinated, you’re still being mandated to self-isolate at home. And if you are not vaccinated at all, the length of time you need to self isolate is being extended, and the PCR test you need to get is being doubled from one to two. So, it is a local public health advice, it is proportionate. 

“We have to be realistic about the fact that we have the issue of Northern Ireland, and that obviously we do have important connectivity issues with the UK that needs to be maintained. But if anything, I think it is very much erring on the side of caution.”

“In many ways, what we have going on in Ireland and in other countries is a race between vaccine and variant. At the moment, the vaccine is just about ahead in this country, and we need to keep that.” 

But, he added:

We have seen the vaccines are working, we want to get people back in the sky, we want to get people back being able to travel. We’re an island – we want to resume connectivity, and we know the benefits of vaccination and it’s my view that there seems to be a logic that saying if somebody is fully vaccinated, surely they should have some benefit or bonus than someone who’s not fully vaccinated.

Yesterday Dr Ronan Glynn, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said health chiefs were “concerned” about the impact the Delta variant may have in the coming weeks.

“We’re very keen for people, particularly people who have not been vaccinated, continue to follow the basic messages so that we don’t run into trouble over the coming weeks,” he told Beat 102-103.

Minister Harris said today that Cabinet members currently believe that plans for a further reopening of the economy and society from 5 July won’t be affected by the Delta variant. 

Updated by Gráinne Ní Aodha.

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