Ibec warns hotel quarantine extension could undermine Irish support for single market

Inclusion of EU countries in list would disrupt ‘significant amounts of essential business travel’

 Danny McCoy: ‘At a time when strong EU support is required on a range of issues, it appears very unhelpful for Ireland to pursue a regime without any co-ordination with other member states.’  Photograph: Alan Betson

Danny McCoy: ‘At a time when strong EU support is required on a range of issues, it appears very unhelpful for Ireland to pursue a regime without any co-ordination with other member states.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

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Ibec, the business lobby group, has warned Government that the proposed extension to the mandatory hotel quarantine regime would cause significant disruption to businesses and could significantly undermine Ireland’s support for the EU’s single market.

The current quarantine requirement was already causing severe disruption to essential business travel, Ibec says in a strongly-worded letter from its chief executive Danny McCoy to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Ibec says it is now “particularly concerned that an extension to the existing list of mandatory quarantine countries will be very damaging from a business and investment reputational perspective and that Ireland will be perceived to be ‘closed for business’.”

The Department of Health has proposed that 43 countries be added to the list of those to which the 12-day mandatory hotel quarantine, in addition to the 33 already on the list. The proposed additions include 17 EU countries including France and Germany and also the US. The inclusion of these countries, which are significant trading and investment partners “involving significant amounts of essential business travel” would increase the disruption for business, Ibec says.

“Business is particularly concerned that the addition of a number of EU countries to the list would significantly undermine Ireland’s support for the internal market and the fundamental freedom of the movement of people,” the letter says.

“At a time when strong EU support is required on a range of issues, it appears very unhelpful for Ireland to pursue a regime without any co-ordination with other member states.”

Limited exceptions

Currently there are limited exceptions granted to the mandatory hotel quarantine requirement for what are called “subject matter experts” who travel here to repair and maintain vital equipment.

However, Ibec argues that this exemption is very narrow “and doesn’t facilitate travel for essential commercial and business management purposes that cannot be carried out through virtual engagement”.

The proposed extension of the quarantine regime has set off tensions in Government with concerns in the Department of Foreign Affairs and in the key economic departments about its impact.

Consultations are due to take place between Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Mr Coveney on the issue in coming days. Public health experts are understood to have advised that the extension of the countries involved is justified by the high level of infection in those countries and the need to try to keep out new variants of the virus.

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