Extension of hotel quarantine to proceed despite capacity fears

Curbs on more countries imposed as Covid variant concerns persist

Army  personnel at Dublin Airport: There are  concerns in Government about the ability of the mandatory hotel system to absorb increased numbers but sources insist new hotel capacity can  be sourced. Photograph: Colin Keegan

Army personnel at Dublin Airport: There are concerns in Government about the ability of the mandatory hotel system to absorb increased numbers but sources insist new hotel capacity can be sourced. Photograph: Colin Keegan

 

The Department of Health said on Sunday night the extension of mandatory hotel quarantine to countries including the US, Canada, France and Italy would go ahead this week despite capacity fears.

It said there remains “serious concern in relation to the spread of Covid-19 and in particular the risk of importation of variants of concern”.

There were reports over the weekend that airlines had seen a rush of bookings from some countries, including the US, as travellers rushed to avoid Thursday’s imposition of the hotel quarantine on 16 new countries.

There are some concerns in Government about the ability of the mandatory hotel system to absorb increased numbers of people after Thursday but sources dismissed fears, insisting that new hotel capacity could be sourced if necessary.

As schools fully reopen and travel restrictions are eased from Monday, the deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said there were “many reasons for hope as we head into a new week”.

‘Way out’

“If we can maintain our progress, vaccines and basic public health measures will be our way out of this pandemic,” Dr Glynn said in a tweet.

But Ministers and officials are nervously awaiting recommendations on Monday from the Government’s immunisation experts on the AstraZeneca vaccine which they fear could slow the rollout of the vaccine just as they hoped it was accelerating.

Officials hope to administer up to 190,000 vaccines this week, but there is an expectation that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) will advise some restrictions on the use of the vaccine later on Monday.

That could require revision of planned deliveries of the vaccines and in turn disrupt the supply of vaccines to some doctors’ practices and vaccination centres.

NIAC has been considering new advice on AstraZeneca since the European Medicines Agency said last week that extremely rare blood clots were a side-effect of the vaccine that patients should be warned about, though it stressed that the threat from Covid-19 was considerably greater than any threat from the vaccine.

Age restriction

However, several EU countries have restricted its use to only older people – as the clots have affected younger people – while the UK has confined it to those over 30.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed with scientists at the University of Oxford, forms a key part of the Government’s vaccine rollout over the coming months, accounting for about one-fifth of the projected four million vaccines to be administered in April, May and June.

Senior sources confirmed on Sunday they were still waiting to hear what if any restrictions the body might advise for AstraZeneca, though there is a general expectation both in Government and the Health Service Executive that some age restrictions will be advised.

NIAC is expected to meet again on Monday and offer advice on the use of the vaccine. Only then will the HSE and the vaccine task force know to what extent they will have to recalibrate plans for this week, but several sources expressed some trepidation about disruption to the programme.

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