Enforcing hotel quarantine will need new legislation, Cabinet hears
Fears sparked that plans agreed by Government may be likely to face delays
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said emerging research from Britain on the UK coronavirus variant has emphasised again the need for mandatory hotel quarantine. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
New legislation will be needed in order to enforce mandatory quarantine at hotels or designated facilities, meaning the plans are likely to face delays, the Cabinet has heard.
While sources said any delays would likely be “short”, such a regime will still not be operational until the legislation clears all the relevant hurdles in the Oireachtas.
It is understood that plans to force other travellers to quarantine at home can be introduced by regulation instead.
Under proposals already agreed by Government there will be mandatory quarantining at a designated facility for passengers who cannot provide a negative pre-departure Covid-19, test as well as all those travelling from Brazil and South Africa due to new variants of the virus there.
Other passengers will be required by law to quarantine at home. It was originally hoped the measures would be in place by early next month.
The Department of Health has been tasked with most of the work, liaising with the Departments of Justice, Transport and Foreign Affairs. The Attorney General is advising on any potential legal issues that arise.
Applying mandatory quarantine measures to EU or UK citizens requires changes to primary legislation.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet has also been asked to sign-off on plans to ask people arriving in Northern Ireland to fill in passenger locator forms if they are travelling across the Border to the Republic.
Under the agreement, passenger information will be shared on both sides of the Border.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said on Tuesday that emerging research from Britain on the UK coronavirus variant has emphasised again the need for mandatory hotel quarantine.
He said sequencing in the UK showed the B117 strain of Covid-19 is picking up new mutations that are the same as those in the Brazilian and South African strains , which was “deeply concerning”.
“We can’t afford to have these new strains become dominant in Ireland. That’s why we need to aim to get to zero covid.
“Only with rigorous testing at arrival, and mandatory hotel quarantine can we reduce this threat. We need to aggressively discourage any unnecessary journeys into or out of the State,” Mr Kelly said.
He said stopping unnecessary travel was just one component of the so-called National Aggressive Suppression Strategy (NASS), being advocated for by the Labour Party.
“We need to see mandatory hotel quarantine for everyone travelling into Ireland with PCR tests upon arrival and after five days. These new variants can come from anywhere, not just the country of origin. If we are serious about eradicating Covid-19 from our communities, quarantining of all arrivals must be mandatory.
“These mutations can also arise in the population here, so it is another reason why we need to rapidly get on top of community spread of the virus in Ireland. By isolating the virus in the specific communities that it exists, we can focus on aggressive testing and tracing. That will get the numbers down, keep the numbers down, and allow us to reopen our communities and economy in a sustainable way.”