Covid-19: Government expected to reconsider quarantine rules

New plan for mandatory hotel arrangements and travel restrictions set to be discussed

 Members of the Defence Forces escort two buses to The Red Cow Covid mandatory quarantine hotel last week. Currently, there are 976 people in mandatory hotel quarantine. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Members of the Defence Forces escort two buses to The Red Cow Covid mandatory quarantine hotel last week. Currently, there are 976 people in mandatory hotel quarantine. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

 

The Government is expected to consider plans next week for the revision of mandatory hotel quarantine arrangements as well as moves to ease restrictions on travel, the Department of Transport has indicated.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said on Thursday night that he and his departmental officials were working closely with other departments “on plans to open up international travel including aviation”.

“The Minister expects a memo will be brought to Government next week which will set out the next steps in the process, including the likely revision of the mandatory hotel quarantine system, a pathway to lift travel restrictions on those who are vaccinated, and plans for the implementation of the EU Digital Green Certificate.”

More than 120 people in mandatory hotel quarantine have tested positive for Covid-19 since it was introduced, according to new figures.

Of the 127 detected cases, 42 involved a variant of concern, according to the Department of Health.

Currently, there are 976 people in mandatory hotel quarantine, staying in 873 rooms. The number of people involved has risen steadily each week.

The department says a further 702 rooms are available in eight hotels.

Since the system started in March, 2,310 people have completed mandatory hotel quarantine, staying in 1,953 rooms.

Appeal

The department’s figures show almost half of these people sought to appeal the rule imposed upon them on their arrival in Ireland.

Of a total of 1,138 appeals, 116 were granted.

Mandatory hotel quarantine was introduced in late March, nine months after public health officials first recommended the measure.

Under the system, anyone travelling into Ireland from one of about 70 countries on a Covid-19 risk list must stay in a designated mandatory hotel for 12 days. States are added to or removed from the list according to the prevalence of the disease and variants of concern in those countries.

Exceptions can be made in certain circumstances, including where the person is fully vaccinated or there are urgent medical reasons. There are also exceptions on compassionate grounds.

The cost per adult is €1,875, with lower rates for children.

However, a form of Covid-19 first identified in India was officially designated a variant of concern on Monday.

Variant

The Health Service Executive has issued new guidance in relation to the B1.617.2 variant and the three others, the UK variant, the Brazilian variant P1 and the South African variant B.1351.

The number of variants of concern originating in Brazil and South Africa detected in Ireland have dropped off sharply since hotel quarantine was introduced.

The Indian variant has been spreading rapidly in the UK, where cases are doubling weekly from a low base. Up to last week, 20 cases had been identified in Ireland.

UK estimates suggest the variant is at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7, the UK variant that was 70 per cent more transmissible than previous variants and quickly became dominant in Ireland after Christmas.

Some British experts believe the Indian variant is actually more transmissible than B.1.1.7 and say the UK should slow down the easing of restrictions because of its rapid spread.

Due to concern over the importation of cases, India was in late April added to the list of countries for which mandatory hotel quarantine is imposed on travellers.