Legislation on mandatory hotel quarantine may be ready next week, says Varadkar

Hotels offering to provide facility to isolate incoming travellers for 14 days

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the new quarantine  regime would be operational within weeks. Photograph: Julien Behal

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the new quarantine regime would be operational within weeks. Photograph: Julien Behal

 

Legislation for mandatory quarantine in hotels may be ready by next week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

The new regime requiring incoming passengers from South Africa and Brazil to quarantine in hotels for 14 days will be operational a week or two after that, he said on Tuesday.

Offers are in from particular hotels already and discussions have been ongoing with authorities in the UK to align on travel restrictions including having the same list of “red” countries.

Mr Varadkar also said the Government will present a revised plan for living with Covid-19 from the week after next on February 22nd.

This will provide details on what is likely to reopen when.

The Fine Gael leader also said the Government hopes to allow people to meet outdoors from March onwards.

On Tuesday, British health secretary Matt Hancock announced a new system of hotel quarantine for UK and Irish residents who have been in red list countries in the last 10 days.

The tough measures to keep Covid-19 out of England include a 10-year sentence for incoming passengers who lie about where they have travelled when abroad.

Mr Hancock said people who entered the UK from 33 high-risk countries would have to pay up to £1,750 (€1,992) to quarantine in designated hotels.

People arriving in the UK already need a negative test at least 72 hours before they start their journey. Non-UK resident travellers from the “red list” countries have already been banned from entering the UK.

Mr Varadkar said there has been close contacts with British authorities on their new travel plans.

“They have given us the heads up on pretty much all the decisions they have made on international travel.”

On mandatory hotel quarantine, Mr Varadkar said the working plan is to have the legislation ready next week.

Mr Varadkar said he believed the measure introduced in the UK to threaten people with 10 years imprisonment was “a bit extreme”.

“I think what we should have is a common policy on international travel. That doesn’t mean the penalties have to be the same. The route they have gone down is a little bit more authoritative [than we would do].”

Earlier, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said more extensive restrictions on travel would be introduced in time including quarantine for arrivals from other countries besides Brazil and South Africa.

“We need to get the system up and running, we need to get the hotels working and then we can extend it,” he said.

Business scheme

Mr Varadkar has also announced a new €60 million scheme, called the Covid-19 Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) which is being developed to provide grants to businesses ineligible for the Government’s other existing schemes. Wholesalers, suppliers, caterers and events companies down 75 per cent or more in turnover will benefit.

The scheme will be available to companies, self-employed, sole traders or partnerships that have a minimum turnover of €50,000.

The company must also be in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority for business which operates from a building.

The turnover of the business also can be no more than 25 per cent of the average weekly turnover of the business in 2019 or else the projected average weekly turnover of the business for January 1st to June 30th, 2021, for businesses that set up after November 1st, 2019.

Businesses will receive a payment of €8,000 across two quarters, Mr Varadkar said.

He said the sum was “modest” but would “make a difference to small businesses in particular.”

“When the pandemic ends, and it will end, I believe our economy will rebound rapidly.”

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