Republic of Ireland news

Republic's travel and quarantine rules 'sloppy' and 'incoherent'

"About 50% of the 800 who would have come in yesterday would be Irish citizens travelling back in from holidaying abroad." Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Cate McCurry, Press Association

The Republic of Ireland government's rules on international travel and mandatory quarantine have been criticised as "sloppy" and "incoherent".

Opposition parties hit out at the government's health advice and regulations around travel, describing them as "inadequate", after ministers appeared to giving confusing advice around the meaning of quarantine and self-isolation.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said quarantining at home means staying within your household.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said anyone returning from abroad should isolate in their rooms, but last night, Mr Donnelly said the government's quarantine proposal requires a person to stay at home.

The regulations are expected to be signed in the coming days.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil: "Anybody listening to Minister Stephen Donnelly on the television that last night will be disabused of any notion that the government has any idea as to what it's doing in terms of quarantine.

"This is absolutely incredible. At a time when we are at the deadliest stage of this pandemic, we have a minister for health that has stated that your quarantine proposal now only requires a person to stay at home.

"They don't even have to isolate in a single room. The logic of that is that that individual can interact with members of their household, who then in turn may venture into the public space, meet with others and run the risk of spreading the virus.

"So it's very alarming to see that you're still at sixes and sevens here and all of this underscores the fact that your quarantine proposal was not thought out at all."

Mr Martin said legislation to enforce mandatory hotel quarantine will be introduced to the Oireachtas "quickly".

However, it could be weeks before the government could bring in legislation for incoming travellers without a negative coronavirus test, or those travelling from Brazil and South Africa.

Mr Martin said it involved legal consideration around enforceability and public health advice.

"The public health advice will continue in terms of self-isolation in specific cases," Mr Martin added. "But in terms of policing somebody in their bedroom, that does obviously raise challenges, but the concept of home quarantining is important in terms of the suppression of the virus.

"About 50% of the 800 who would have come in yesterday would be Irish citizens travelling back in from holidaying abroad.

"I think the measures that we brought in in terms of negative PCR tests obligation, for example, is having a deterrent effect, and the two-pronged strategy is to deter people from travelling in the first instance into Ireland, and Irish people going abroad on holidays and coming back in."

Ms McDonald said: "What you and your government are now describing is a very loose, very sloppy and very inadequate response."

However, Mr Martin said there are constitutional issues around the personal liberties and freedoms of citizens to consider.

Co-leader of the Social Democrats Roisin Shortall said no one knows the rules around travel, self-isolation and quarantine.

"I've said consistently that the Government's failure, and indeed the last government's failure, to address the issue of travel has been the biggest single failing in relation to the response to Covid," Ms Shortall said.

"At no point have we had a coherent and effective system to address the threat posed by inward travel.

"What exactly are you talking about in relation to restrictions on travel? The question of mandatory hotel quarantine is absolutely essential and we should be doing that for everybody.

"I cannot understand why you want to go with that policy which has proven so successful in other countries that have operated that, you just haven't provided any explanation for that."

Mr Martin said mandatory quarantine is a person staying in their own home.

The government is to introduce new measures around travel, including mandatory quarantine at a designated facility for people who arrive in the Republic of Ireland without a negative PCR test taken in the past 72 hours.

Travellers arriving in the Republic of Ireland without a negative test could face a fine of 2,500 euro or a six-month prison sentence.

Yesterday, the Republic of Ireland reported a record 101 Covid-19 deaths, the highest number in a single day since the pandemic began.

An additional 879 new cases were also confirmed.

The Oireachtas Health Committee heard that 1,543 staff and residents have died with Covid-19 in nursing homes in the Republic - 369 in the last month alone.

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