Government to add US and four EU countries to quarantine list
Concern over system’s capacity to deal with extending mandatory hotel quarantine list
Defence Forces personnel on Friday afternoon at the Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport, one of the hotels being used for mandatory quarantine. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
The Government has approved plans to add the US and four European Union countries to the mandatory hotel quarantine list despite concerns over the system’s capacity to handle the additional volume of inbound travellers.
At an incorporeal Cabinet meeting on Friday night, Ministers added 16 countries to the list including Canada, Belgium, Italy, France and Luxembourg.
The list will be expanded from next Thursday, although the inclusion of the US and Canada is subject to there being sufficient capacity in the system. Germany was removed from the list after new advice was received from the Travel Advisory Group.
Measures to strengthen home quarantining were also agreed. Passengers flying in from countries not deemed to be of “high-risk” due to the circulation of Covid-19 variants must now have a day five Covid-19 test booked with the HSE, as well as a negative pre-flight PCR test. The Government is also to consider how to approach passengers who are fully vaccinated.
The High Court will on Saturday hear an application from a woman who is seeking an inquiry into whether her detention in the system is lawful.
The woman, who arrived from Israel this week, says she is fully vaccinated and has tested negative for Covid-19 twice in recent days. She argues that the regime amounts to a form of detention which breaches her constitutional right to liberty.
Israel, Albania and St Lucia are to be removed from the list next week.
There are 344 people quarantining in hotels, across 271 rooms. The department said there was 56.3 per cent capacity remaining, but a spokeswoman said there was scope to “significantly scale” the system as needed. There are to be 959 rooms available by April 19th and 1,147 by April 26th.
The spokeswoman said hotel operator Tifco Hotel Group would be responsible for ensuring designated facilities were available for the provision of mandatory quarantine.
While the precise impact on passenger numbers of adding countries to mandatory hotel quarantine list is difficult to define, analysis by The Irish Times suggests arrivals last week from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) fell by almost 75 per cent when compared with the average of the previous three weeks.
The UAE is one of the few countries already on the list with direct flights and substantial traffic into Ireland. Five countries on the newly expanded list – France, Italy, Turkey, the US and Belgium – have recorded significant arrivals into the State in recent weeks on direct flights, for which there is data available. Across the five, 3,345 arrived last week. A similar reduction to the UAE would suggest about 860 arrivals from these countries.
The other countries to be added to the list next week are Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, Turkey, Armenia, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Curacao, Maldives and Ukraine.
Blood clotting risk
Meanwhile, the State’s medicines watchdog has offered reassurances about the safety of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, despite the first reported case of rare blood clotting in the State. It emerged on Friday that the company will reduce its deliveries to EU countries by half this week.
Dr Lorraine Nolan, chief executive of the Health Products Regulatory Authority, said its benefits far outweighed the risks, and encouraged people, particularly younger people, to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded this week the vaccine could possibly be linked to rare incidents of clotting.
“If you don’t get vaccinated when you are offered it, you have absolutely no protection at all against Covid-19,” Dr Nolan said, adding she would “absolutely take this vaccine if it was offered”.
The EMA is now reviewing reports of rare blood clots in four people, three in the US, who received Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine.
“At present, no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events and the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine,” the company said in a statement.
The National Public Health Emergency Team on Friday night reported 34 deaths related to Covid-19, three of which occurred this month, and a further 473 confirmed cases of the disease.
This article was amended on April 11th to add recent information about arrivals from Turkey