A Dutch engineer who was not aware he would need to enter hotel quarantine upon arriving into Dublin is not allowed to fly home.
Johannes Heemskerk has been in The Red Cow Hotel in Dublin since he flew from Amsterdam to Ireland last Sunday.
He was travelling to the country to repair refrigerators for a storage company based in Co Louth. The company’s managing director, Tony Carroll, said the work was essential for maintaining the manufacturing and food production chains.
However, Mr Carroll said he did not realise the Dutch national lived 6km over the border in Belgium, which is one of five European Union countries from which travellers must enter Ireland’s hotel quarantine system, when he was arranging the travel for Mr Heemskerk.
Stricter rules apply to what workers are deemed essential if they have travelled from designated states.
Upon being questioned at Dublin airport, Mr Heemskerk told Irish authorities he had been in Belgium within the last 14 days. He had not been aware before flying that he would need to quarantine in a hotel.
“I understand the rules are the rules, but they are so different here in Ireland,” Mr Heemskerk told the Irish Times. “It was really a mistake. I have a Dutch passport and I drive over the border to Holland every day.”
He had been due to spend five days in Ireland for his work with AP Controls Limited and, had he not been made to quarantine at the Dublin hotel, he would have flown home on Friday.
He has tested negative for the coronavirus twice, once on April 17th before flying and a second time since his arrival in quarantine.
Appeals from the engineer based on “urgent humanitarian grounds”, one of a limited number of options on which appeals can be based, have been rejected on five occasions.
Mr Heemskerk’s requests to be allowed to leave the hotel to travel straight to Dublin airport to fly to Amsterdam were denied.
In appeals to the State liaison officer, Mr Carroll said Mr Heemskerk “realises now that he broke the rules in error and he wishes to make it clear that he did not know about the restrictions from Belgium until he was challenged on arrival at Dublin airport.”
The appeal acknowledged Mr Heemskerk would need to undergo another PCR test before boarding a flight to the Netherlands and said: “Should he prove negative, Johannnes respectfully requests on humanitarian grounds to leave MHQ (mandatory hotel quarantine) and fly home for a pre-arranged medical appointment.”
In a letter to Mr Heemskerk rejecting his fourth request to leave quarantine, the appeals officer said: “There is no evidence that the applicant is an exempted traveller. It is accepted that the applicant was in a designated country within the period of 14 days prior to his arrival.”
The officer said the bar for exemption due to “urgent humanitarian reasons” had not been met and it would “not be appropriate” for the period of mandatory quarantine to be ended.
Mr Heemskerk said he has suffered with depression in the past and the condition is returning while he is alone in hotel quarantine.
He said he has been “a little bit disturbed” by the tight restrictions Ireland is imposing on citizens of the European Union.
“I got a PCR test and it was negative. I asked why could I not go back to the airport and go back to Belgium?” he said.
“I was only coming here to work and then I was going to go back. I was coming here to help and it was necessary.”
Mr Carroll said the company’s priority now is to get Mr Heemskerk out of hotel quarantine and back to his family. They will figure out another way to fix the equipment.
“Why can’t we just send him home? It is not fair to keep the man here,” Mr Carroll said. “We are detaining an EU citizen against his will … This is wrong.”
The Department of Health was asked for comment on foreign travellers in quarantine who wish to return to their home country.
In response a spokeswoman said: “All passengers arriving into Ireland from or through a designated State are required to pre-book accommodation.”
She said a minimum period of 10 days must be completed, although residents can request a review of their situation.