Hotel quarantine causing ‘high degree of anxiety’ in foreign Irish residents

State should not put those travelling to sick relatives ‘in same basket’ as holidaymakers

Marta Correale from Rathgar, Dublin: ‘I felt welcome in Ireland for 15 years and this year I feel that a lot less.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Marta Correale from Rathgar, Dublin: ‘I felt welcome in Ireland for 15 years and this year I feel that a lot less.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

There has been a “high degree of anxiety” among foreign Irish residents since the mandatory hotel quarantine system was established, according to Italian citizen and Dublin resident Irene Mosca.

As Italy was one of 16 new countries added to Ireland’s “red list” on Thursday, Mosca (41) said she feels she has “zero control” over when she can next visit her sick father in Ferrara, northern Italy.

“Pre-Covid I would go once every three months to check on my parents because my father has been ill for some time,” she said.

The confusion surrounding the quarantine system has left foreigners such as Mosca feeling “very vulnerable”, yet they have been “ignored” in the debate around international travel, she said. Holidays have dominated discussions, but one “cannot put them in the same basket” as people tending to sick relatives abroad, she said.

“We share the same frustration, concerns and worries of the Irish citizens living abroad,” she said.

Italy is among 16 countries to be placed on the red list from Thursday. Also included is the United States, Canada, France and Belgium. On Thursday Italian ambassador Paolo Serpi denounced the step as “selective and discriminatory”. He has written to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly expressing hopes the measure will be “revoked as soon as possible”.

Mosca, who has lived in Ireland for more than a decade, said there has been “no clear explanation” for why Italy was added to the mandatory quarantine list when other countries had higher rates of the virus and more concerning variants.

“This seems to be a discriminatory, erratic policy,” said the Maynooth professor of economics.

‘Isolated’

Italy’s placement on the red list has left Marta Correale feeling “isolated” from her elderly parents in Rome. An only child, Correale said she feels anxious that she cannot catch a flight home in the event of an emergency.

“My elderly parents live on their own . . . If my parents are sick can I go to them? Are my kids allowed to come with me?” she asked, adding that flights to Italy have dwindled during the pandemic.

Correale is frustrated that foreign residents have been getting “no attention” when discussions of border controls have taken place. All the focus, she said, has been on Irish people going on holidays.

“I am not against quarantine. I am not against tests on arrival or quarantining at home . . . I felt welcome in Ireland for 15 years and this year I feel that a lot less,” she added.

Manuela Spinelli, an interpreter who translated for Giovanni Trapattoni, lives in Dublin but travelled home to Italy to be with her parents. She says she feels stuck in a situation where she ‘cannot get back’. File photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Manuela Spinelli, an interpreter who translated for Giovanni Trapattoni, lives in Dublin but travelled home to Italy to be with her parents. She says she feels stuck in a situation where she ‘cannot get back’. File photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Meanwhile, Manuela Spinelli, an interpreter who translated for former Ireland football manager Giovanni Trapattoni, travelled to Italy in November to spend Christmas with her elderly parents. She has been working from there remotely since then. Now with the introduction of mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers from Italy, she said she feels “stuck”.

“I am in a situation where I cannot get back . . . I am certainly not coming back to quarantine in a hotel, that is for sure,” she said. “I am not talking about people who go on holiday and expect all of this. I am talking about people who have a genuine reason to travel.”

‘No logic’

Spinelli has “no problem following the rules”, she said, adding that a combination of Covid-19 testing and quarantining is necessary post-travel. But she believes she should not have to pay close to €2,000 to quarantine in a hotel when she is also paying high rent for her home in Dublin.

“I have been paying tax in Ireland for 28 years . . . I have been in Ireland for longer than I have been in Italy,” she said.

There is “no logic whatsoever” to the system, given people can still fly to Belfast or through other countries, she said, adding: “I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to break the rules.”

Deputy head of mission for the Italian embassy, Donato Scioscioli, said the service has received many emails and messages from Italian citizens living in Ireland who are distressed about mandatory hotel quarantine. There are about 50,000 Italians living in Ireland, Scioscioli said, and the reaction from them has been “very strong” with many feeling they are being treated “unfairly”.