Mandatory hotel quarantine to be managed by ‘one-stop shop’ provider
Legislation will be debated on Monday, with Opposition calling for stricter controls
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik and Labour leader Alan Kelly: the party has resubmitted its amendment which would see mandatory quarantining apply to all travellers into the State with the exception of essential workers. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
The Government wants providers of mandatory quarantining for international passengers under strict new Covid-19 laws to offer a “one-stop shop” of services .
It is understood the Government is keen for them to organise transport from airports, as well as provide accommodation and meals and look after security.
Department of Health officials are in talks with a number of hotels in a bid to ensure the new system is operational “as soon as possible” after the legislation needed to bring it about is signed into law.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last night expanded the list of ‘high risk’ origin countries to which the rules will apply to 33.
The Opposition has been highly critical of Mr Donnelly’s planned legislation, insisting it does not go far enough and arguing that all international travellers should be required to quarantine in hotels, with the exception of essential workers.
There are set to be renewed bids to amend the law along these lines when it is debated in the Seanad on Monday.
The Government did not accept any amendments when the legislation was debated and passed in the Dáil on Thursday.
Any proposed changes to extend the scope of the law to all international travellers are expected to be resisted by the Government in the Seanad.
Once legislation passes the Seanad, it is due to be sent to President Michael D Higgins for his consideration by March 8th.
After it is signed into law, the intention is that facilities for passengers travelling from countries deemed to be a high risk for Covid-19 or its variants would be in place within days.
However, one source cautioned that this could be delayed if issues arise in the legislative process or with the sourcing of providers.
Another Government source would only go as far as to say the new system will be in place “as soon as possible” after it is signed into law.
Under the new regime, air passengers will be required to quarantine for two weeks at their own expense if they arrive from countries deemed Category 2, meaning they pose a higher risk of Covid-19 and new variants of the virus.
The legislation also introduces compulsory quarantine for passengers who arrive in Ireland without a negative PCR test.
The Government initially identified 20 countries for inclusion on the list of high-risk countries including the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Brazil, Austria and 16 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela were added to the list last night.
Mr Donnelly said the Government continues to advise against all non-essential international travel and that the measure will apply to all passengers from the countries on the list regardless of nationality.
Ahead of the Seanad debate, the Labour Party has resubmitted its amendment which would see mandatory quarantining apply to all travellers into the State with the exception of essential workers. The amendment will be moved by Senator Ivana Bacik.
“We need to introduce stricter controls on inward travel to suppress community transmission within Ireland,”she said. “We know a great deal of inward travel in January and February was Irish people returning from holidays, patently non-essential travel. The visibility of this has also undermined public compliance with domestic restrictions.