McEntee confident hotel quarantine is ‘proportionate and reasonable’

Measure has been successful but people need to see ‘exit strategy’, Minister for Justice says

The European Commission contacted Irish authorities seeking clarification on the criteria used to designate countries to the mandatory hotel quarantine list, after five EU member states were added. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The European Commission contacted Irish authorities seeking clarification on the criteria used to designate countries to the mandatory hotel quarantine list, after five EU member states were added. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said the Government is confident mandatory hotel quarantine is “proportionate and reasonable” but people need to be shown there is an “exit strategy” for the measure.

She also said that while an exemption is being planned for international travellers who have been fully vaccinated, it “doesn’t give people free rein”.

“They won’t be able to just come into the country and do whatever they want,” Ms McEntee told LMFM radio. “They will still have to show a negative PCR test. They will still have to quarantine at home. So there will still be that level of protection there, even though there is obviously a reduced risk because people will have been vaccinated.”

Five European Union member states including France and Italy were added to the list of designated states deemed to have a high risk of Covid-19 or its variants, with the requirement to quarantine in hotels for arriving passengers from those countries coming into force on Thursday.

The European Commission has contacted Irish authorities seeking clarifications on the criteria used to designate countries and raising “some concerns in relation to the general principles of EU law, in particular proportionality and non-discrimination”.

‘Very confident’

Ms McEntee said the Government is “very confident” in the legal advice it has received about mandatory hotel quarantine.

She said it is up to each EU member state “to decide how they support and protect their citizens from Covid-19”.

She added: “Of course, we have to be conscious of the freedoms that exist, whether it’s freedom of movement or anything else, within the EU. But we have introduced this very confident that it is proportionate and reasonable.

“But we never intended to introduce it without being clear that this is not a permanent strategy.”

She said mandatory hotel quarantine has been successful in that it has detected cases of Covid-19 among arriving passengers including some variants of concern.

Ms McEntee also said: “We cannot continue like this forever. We’re a small open country. We have a lot of people coming and going, and we need to be able to show that we have an exit strategy.”

She said that Cabinet agreed last week that the issue of exemptions for vaccinated people would be looked at and “this could potentially be an exit strategy”.