Austria and UAE among countries added to mandatory hotel quarantine list

Over 10,000 residents arrived back into State from abroad since late January

Stephen Donnelly: he has  added Austria, the United Arab Emirates  and various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa  to the list of countries for mandatory hotel quarantine. Photograph: Laura Hutton

Stephen Donnelly: he has added Austria, the United Arab Emirates and various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to the list of countries for mandatory hotel quarantine. Photograph: Laura Hutton

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Passengers travelling into Ireland from Austria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and various countries in sub-Saharan Africa will be forced to quarantine in a hotel in future due to growing fears about coronavirus variants.

The chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, along with an advisory team, highlighted concerns about these regions to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, who has now added them to the list of countries for mandatory hotel quarantine.

That list already includes Brazil and South Africa.

In Austria health authorities have been concerned by an outbreak of the South African coronavirus variant in the Alpine province of Tyrol.

Concern was also expressed this week that Ireland was being used as a “back door into Britain” for travellers from Dubai.

The UK has banned flights from the UAE, and requires people travelling from there to quarantine for 10 days to curb the spread of Covid-19 variants.

The Cabinet will consider legislation to enact mandatory hotel quarantine at its meeting next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, new figures have revealed that 10,601 Irish residents have arrived back into the State from a holiday or visit abroad since late January.

According to figures provided by the Department of Justice, the number of passengers arriving back into the State from a holiday represents 65 per cent of all foreign travel since January 26th.

Furthermore, some 280 people have arrived into Dublin Airport without a valid PCR test. The Director of Public Prosecutions is understood to be preparing files on each case.

The Government is also currently considering proposals to introduce mandatory State quarantine for passengers without a valid test although this is just considered a “possibility” at present.

According to the new statistics, more than 3,000 Irish residents said they had travelled to visit a sick relative, for a medical reason or for a funeral.

Senior officials are also considering whether this group should be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine if they have returned from one of the specified high-risk countries.

Amongst the reasons that non-residents gave for travelling into the State between January 26th and February 10th, 2,059 passengers said they were holidaying while 1,248 said they were transiting to Northern Ireland.

The top five countries that all passengers had departed from were Great Britain, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Poland and Romania.

Legal challenge

Separate figures supplied by the Department of Transport show that since January 4th, nearly 4,000 passengers arrived through Dublin airport from the United Arab Emirates.

Earlier Tánaiste Leo Varadkar warned of the potential for legal challenge over mandatory hotel quarantining for arriving passengers at Irish ports and airports.

He told Social Democrats joint leader Catherine Murphy in the Dáil it could be argued that it would be “disproportionate to impose mandatory hotel quarantine on people who don’t have Covid” when the State does not do that to people resident in Ireland who have the virus.

Ms Murphy said it was very difficult for people to take quarantining being disproportionate.

The public sees that “it’s okay for people to go on holidays; they can’t send their kids to school. That’s why it’s hard.”