Donnelly awaits advice on adding India to quarantine list after latest mutation

Surge in infections and emergence of yet another coronavirus variant ‘concerning’

Sinn Féin said India is not on the ‘red list’ despite a ‘really worrying’ number of cases and deaths. But the country has been added to the list in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin said India is not on the ‘red list’ despite a ‘really worrying’ number of cases and deaths. But the country has been added to the list in Northern Ireland.

 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he expects a recommendation on whether or not India should be added to the mandatory hotel quarantine list this week.

There has been a surge in Covid-19 cases there as well as the emergence of a new variant. 

At present there are 71 countries on the Government’s list of designated states deemed to be a high risk for Covid-19 or its variants. It includes several in Africa, South America and Asia but also the United States, Canada and some in Europe. These include France, Italy and Belgium. 

Passengers from those countries that do not fall into exempted categories must quarantine in hotels upon arrival in the Republic.

An advisory group keeps the list of countries under review and it is due to meet on Thursday evening to consider any additions or subtractions from the list.

Once it makes a recommendation a letter is sent to Mr Donnelly, who in turn consults with the Department of Foreign Affairs before a decision is taken. 

Mr Donnelly told the Dáil that he expects a recommendation on India this week.

It came after Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said there are a “really worrying” number of cases and deaths in India and yet the country is not on the “red list”.

He said it has been added to the list in Northern Ireland and “that’s the right thing to do”. Mr Cullinane asked why India has not been added to the list in the Republic.

Mr Donnelly noted that India had in excess of 300,000 Covid-19 cases on Wednesday.

“I believe it’s the highest number of daily cases for any country since Covid arrived and it’s absolutely heartbreaking,” he said.

He added that the team advising chief medical officer (CMO) Tony Holohan met on Wednesday and that he himself had spoken to the deputy CMO Ronan Glynn about India. 

“I am expecting a recommendation on India this week,” said Mr Donnelly.

“I am concerned about it. When the deputy CMO and I spoke on this yesterday the Indian variant had not yet been classified by the multilaterals as a variant of concern but we know the UK added it to their list and we’re looking very closely at it.”

Mr Donnelly also said he would ask public health experts their view on approving China’s Sinopharm vaccine following concerns raised by Irish people returning from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who have received the shot but are required to quarantine in a hotel.

He said he believed the list of vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would be extended beyond the current four - Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson versions.

Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue said he had been approached by a number of Irish people who have been vaccinated with the Sinopharm injection, including one teacher who said he had gone through 37 PCR tests.

Mr O’Donoghue said 10,000 Irish people are living in the UAE which is “the fifth most vaccinated country in the world”. The UAE had vaccinated nine million people and the Sinopharm vaccine is “undergoing approval from the WHO”.

The Limerick TD said they would not be allowed into Ireland without mandatory hotel quarantine even though they have been fully vaccinated and could quarantine at home.

The Minister said current public health advice is that exemptions to mandatory hotel quarantining should apply to vaccines approved by the EMA. “But it is a very reasonable question posed by Irish people in the Emirates and I will seek a view from public health on it.”