Belgium, France, Italy, US and Canada among 16 countries added to mandatory quarantine list
Thousands arrived in last week from countries health experts wanted on list
The most arrivals came from France, with 1,300 travellers coming into either Dublin or Shannon airports in a week. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
The Cabinet agreed to add several European countries as well as the USA and Canada to the State’s mandatory hotel quarantine list at a specially convened meeting on Friday night.
The other countries on the list include Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, Turkey, Armenia, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Curaçao, Maldives and Ukraine.
A decision was also taken to remove Israel, Albania, and St Lucia from the list of countries for mandatory hotel quarantine. However the government agreed that anyone currently in mandatory quarantine who has travelled from or through these states must complete their period of quarantine.
States being added to the designated list will be included as a priority on the booking system for mandatory hotel quarantine early next week, with passengers from these States entering quarantine starting from 4am on Thursday next April 15th.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said protecting public health as a matter of urgency has been to the fore of these decisions around mandatory quarantine. “This is another strong move following public health advice relating to variants of concern with Covid-19. These variants pose a significant risk to our fight against this disease and our vaccination programme. This decision also reinforces Ireland’s biosecurity, ensuring we have the strongest measures in place in Europe,” he said following the meeting.
Government sources said there are currently in the region of 650 hotel rooms available now for mandatory quarantine, but this will increase to more than 1,100 by the end of the month.
The Government also approved new measures to strengthen home quarantine so that passengers flying in from non high-risk countries must have a five day Covid-19 test booked with the HSE, as well as their pre-flight PCR test.
Government sources said the move to hold the unplanned incorporeal Cabinet meeting at short notice on Friday night was due to the level of concern around Covid-19 variants, which needs to be addressed.
Earlier it was confirmed thousands of travellers came into the State from countries experts said should already be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine while the Government debated additions to the list.
Figures released by the Department of Transport show that during the most recent week for which statistics are available, almost 3,000 people arrived into the State from France, Germany, Italy and the United States.
The figures cover the period from March 29th to April 4th. News of the Government’s intention to expand the list to include these countries broke on March 30th.
The most arrivals came from France, with 1,300 travellers coming into either Dublin or Shannon airports that week. This was followed by the USA, with 735 arrivals, Germany with 707 and Italy with 245.
It has since been reported that both the Netherlands and Poland are being considered for inclusion on the list; a total of 2,523 people arrived into the State from those countries in that period. If those countries were to be included, the number would rise to over 5,510 arrivals in the week to last Sunday.
The push to add more countries to the list caused a bitter row between Government departments last week, with resistance particularly from the Department of Foreign Affairs to the step.
The process for adding countries has been the subject of a consultation between several Government departments, but, despite ongoing concerns in some quarters, both the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Green party leader Eamon Ryan indicated their support for the step.
Earlier in the week Mr Martin said he is “of course” open to adding more EU countries to the list in the context of public health advice and particularly if there is an issue with variants of concerns.
Up to now Austria was the only EU member state on the list of countries from which people entering the State must spend time in mandatory quarantine. The list was dominated by countries in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
On Thursday the HSE confirmed ten cases of Covid-19 have been detected among arrivals into the country who are being accommodated in hotel quarantine, since the system was established two weeks ago.
The ten cases were detected among 419 people who have been tested in hotel quarantine so far.