Republic's Covid-19 quarantine legislation criticised as ‘half-hearted'
The Dublin government’s mandatory quarantine legislation has been criticised by opposition parties as “half-hearted” and “unfit for purpose”.
A number of parties want to see tougher legislation introduced for international travellers arriving into the Republic.
The opposition has made calls for mandatory quarantining to apply to all arrivals, however this has been resisted by government.
The Health Bill will introduce mandatory quarantine at a government-designated facility for people arriving from 20 countries where Covid-19 has been flagged as high risk.
Mandatory quarantine will also apply to people arriving into the Republic without a negative PCR test.
Minister for Heath Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil yesterday that 1,000-3,500 people travel into the Republic each day, with around 10,500 arriving into Dublin Airport last week.
Today, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said people would find those figures “concerning” and “disturbing”.
He added: “It makes no sense to people that they can’t travel beyond five kilometres, yet those who travel to Ireland on their holidays can arrive in the State virtually unimpeded.
“Yet that is the policy that your government intends to pursue with the legislation that is before this House, and that you’re pressing this afternoon.
“What you intend to introduce is mandatory hotel quarantining for arrivals from 20 countries, only two of which have direct flights to Ireland.
“So rather than taking meaningful action to prevent the importation of new strains, or variants, you’re putting in place a system that we know is unfit for purpose.
“It’s absolutely bizarre, minister. It is a dereliction of your duty.”
Sinn Féin has proposed an amendment to the Bill which would see all arrivals, irrespective of which country they travel from, subject to mandatory hotel quarantine for non-essential travel.
Mr Doherty also said mandatory quarantine in a home is “farcical and unenforceable”.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said some 300 people have been fined at Dublin Airport for travelling for non-essential purposes.
Mr Ryan repeated previous comments that gardaí are carrying out checks on people’s homes to ensure they are in quarantine.
But Antionette Cunningham, general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, said sergeants and inspectors have disputed that.
Mr Ryan also defended the government’s attempts to clamp down on international travel, particularly those who are arriving in the Republic.
He said: “We’re following the best advice, both World Health Organisation and ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control).
“The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control set out its advice last Monday week, and we are following that pretty much to the letter.
“I think that’s appropriate. We share this island with two jurisdictions and that does present certain characteristics in terms of how we manage travel.”
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said people are not convinced by the “half-hearted” quarantine system which she said has been introduced at a “snail’s pace”.
Ms Murphy was also critical of the government’s revised Living with Covid-19 plan announced on Tuesday.
“The strategy announced for reducing the numbers appears to lack a strategy and instead relies on people doing more of the same,” she told the Dáil.
“People are losing hope, they’re dejected, and increasingly feel the government is not in control.
“There’s a half-hearted approach, a pat on the head – keep with the Level Five strategy – and it’s not convincing people.
“We need to see an actual rollout plan for the vaccine as well.
“I know that depends on supply, but surely there is an indicative plan, a wall planner on a weekly and a monthly basis, about who gets the vaccine and when.”