Just one hotel quarantine staff member has tested positive for Covid-19 so far
Positivity rate of 2.4% from 413 swabs in first two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine
People who have finished their quarantine period departing the Crowne Plaza hotel in Santry, Dublin, on Thursday. Photograph: Alan Betson
Ten people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the mandatory hotel quarantine system since it opened two weeks ago.
A total of 413 swabs had been taken from residents with a positivity rate of 2.4 per cent, a Health Service Executive media briefing heard yesterday.
The mandatory hotel quarantine system opened on March 26th for people arriving into the State from so-called category two countries – places where Irish health authorities are concerned about the spread of variants of Covid-19.
Those arriving from about 60 countries are brought from airports into the system, which sees people having to quarantine in designated hotels for up to 14 days. They are tested on arrival and again after 10 days.
Niamh O’Beirne, HSE national lead on test and trace, said the countries from which those who tested positive originated have been identified and will be revealed at a later date. The HSE has not said if variants of the disease were detected among those who had tested positive.
It said staff working in the hotels have also been tested, with one positive tested out of the 149 conducted to date.
A row erupted in Government last week over plans to add people arriving from major European Union nations such as France, Germany and Italy and also the United States to the mandatory hotel quarantine list. The major nations were excluded for the time being but are expected to be added in the weeks ahead.
Freedom of movement
Concerns were raised that freedom-of-movement rules within the EU could be impinged. However, the European Commission has now said that the system is a matter for the Government and would not seem to go against agreed EU recommendations on travel.
“Member states may decide to impose rules of quarantine when they believe there are causes for public health,” European Commission spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker said.
“Quarantine and testing requirements and the conditions for these are national public-health measures that fall under the competence of member states.”
Asked whether hotel quarantine for EU citizens violated a principle of freedom of movement, another commission spokesman, Adalbert Jahnz, said Ireland’s plan did not seem to go against a jointly agreed EU approach to travel during the pandemic.
“The latest of these recommendations dates from February 1st this year which addresses in particular what to do with the problem of variants as well as a new dark red colour that was added to the common map of the epidemiological situation that is made by the ECDC, indicating areas where the virus is circulating at very high levels,” he said.
“This amended recommendation provides specifically that travellers from such areas, dark red areas within the EU, should be required to do a pre-departure test as well as undergo quarantine or self-isolation after arrival. And similarly such measures could also apply to areas with high prevalence of variants of concern.
“Our understanding is that Ireland would require mandatory quarantine from travellers coming from areas with high prevalence of variants of concern, and therefore these measures would not appear to go beyond what is set out in the [European] Council recommendation.”
Asked whether the use of hotels as facilities for quarantine was an issue, Mr Jahnz said this was a matter for member states.
“Not specifically, I have to say that the council recommendations specifically address more the principle than the implementation and then it is up to each member state to make sure that the implementation and enforcement are applied in line with the general principles of EU law.”