Covid-19: Mandatory hotel quarantine to remain in place for some throughout summer
Government is working on plans for resumption of international travel
Members of the Defence Forces await passengers in order to enforce Covid-19 mandatory quarantine measures, at Dublin Airport. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins
Mandatory hotel quarantine will remain in place for unvaccinated people coming into the State from high-risk places throughout the summer, despite Government plans to sign up to a European green cert allowing a greater level of travel later in the summer.
The Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Transport are working on a plan for the resumption of international travel ahead of the launch of the green cert by June 26th.
It was thought a memo detailing plans for a phased resumption of international travel would be brought to Cabinet today, but this will now happen next week instead.
A Government source said there are fears about new and existing Covid-19 variants of concern and despite plans to ease restrictions in relation to international travel, mandatory hotel quarantine will remain in place for the coming months.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on Monday that it will be “August at the earliest” before non-essential international travel can take place again.
“It’s against the law at the moment to leave Ireland for non-essential reasons, but we will have to change that law at some point,” he said.
He said it was his “fervent ambition that we will be able to restore the Common Travel Area with Britain very soon, so people can travel without restrictions . . . we will be able to restore that at some stage this summer or autumn.
“I’d like to see us have travel within the EU again and perhaps the US [without restrictions], but there will be large parts of the world not vaccinated fully until the middle of next year some time . . . so I think we will have some form of mandatory hotel quarantine in place for those high-risk areas.”
A further 360 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the State, the Department of Health said on Monday.
On Monday morning, there were 110 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 42 were in intensive care.
Meanwhile, it emerged people aged in their 40s will be given the choice of using the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines or receiving other vaccines, but only under strict conditions.
Following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac), the minimum age limit for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines is being reduced from 50 to 40 years, HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry has confirmed.
Niac, which made recommendations to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan over the weekend, had considered the administration of the two vaccines to people in their 40s, “with some conditions attached”, Dr Henry said.
The recommended conditions would include ensuring people have full information about any potential risks.
Dr Holohan is understood to have endorsed Niac’s recommendation in this regard in a recommendation to Government. The HSE has now been asked how to operationalise the proposals. It is understood that they plan to have this done by the middle of this week.
Sources said implementing the advice will be “tricky” as it is not clear whether the information on risks can be given through existing frameworks and structures in the vaccination programme, or if they will need to be modified.
Other aspects, such as whether the conditions attached complicate plans to roll out vaccines through community pharmacies, also need to be examined.