Some Government TDs urge tougher quarantine for travellers

Martin tells parliamentary party that nearly half of those coming into Ireland’s airports on Wednesday had been on holiday

Róisín Shortall: “Home quarantine is a contradiction in terms. If you need to quarantine due to risk then you shouldn’t be in a house with other people.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Róisín Shortall: “Home quarantine is a contradiction in terms. If you need to quarantine due to risk then you shouldn’t be in a house with other people.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

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A number of senior backbench Government TDs have called on the Cabinet to introduce stronger measures in relation to quarantine for travellers coming into the State.

The calls came as Taoiseach Micheál Martin told a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party on Wednesday night that nearly half of those coming into Ireland’s airports on Wednesday had been on holiday – 397 out of 800 arrivals.

Mandatory quarantine of two weeks in designated hotels is to be put in place for passengers who arrive into the State without a valid negative Covid-19 PCR test taken in the days prior to their journey.

All travellers arriving from South Africa and Brazil, where there are concerns about new strains of Covid-19 having emerged, would also have to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days. Other travellers would have to quarantine for a fortnight at home.

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke said the Government needed to be “very strict” in relation to the quarantine measures.

“I think we could go further and we should. If we can spare even 100 people getting Covid-19 that way, that’s still 100 people less. I would prefer a far more supervised quarantine regime.”

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said that people were “finding this a very difficult time”.

“They’re particularly concerned about their children and the impact the closure of schools and colleges is having on them,” he said.

“Most people who contact me want to see stringent restrictions on travel into the State. They make the valid point that since we are all living at present under draconian regulations, it is not too much to ask people travelling into the country to comply with stringent quarantine requirements.”

A meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party also heard similar concerns on Wednesday night from some participants. Former minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald, who is now a member of the European Parliament, Senator Jerry Buttimer and Bernard Durkan TD all said they believed that the proposed new restrictions on international travel do not go far enough.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the meeting that international travel accounted for less than 1 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the country.

It is understood that no one explicitly argued for a “zero-Covid” strategy, which would seek to fully eliminate the disease on the island, to be adopted, but there were calls for more stringent measures around mandatory quarantine for people travelling to Ireland.

Members of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group, which has been calling for a “zero-Covid” approach to be taken in Ireland, said the measures announced by the Government on Tuesday would not be sufficient in suppressing the disease.

Scrutiny

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said on Wednesday night that the Government proposals on home quarantining “don’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny”.

“Home quarantine is a contradiction in terms. If you need to quarantine due to risk then you shouldn’t be in a house with other people.

“Is anyone seriously suggesting that gardaí will be calling to houses to check that people have access to a private en-suite bedroom and someone to prepare their meals and leave them at the bedroom door, because that’s what mandatory quarantine means.”

The Dublin North West TD added: “People won’t or can’t do it, and it’s completely unenforceable. This is a continuation of the Government’s lax approach to travel from the beginning – first it was self-isolation, then restrict your movements, now home quarantine and like the earlier attempts home quarantine is simply unworkable.”

The Department of Health – which is tasked with implementing the new regulations and legislation – could offer no firm timeline on Wednesday night on when the various measures would be in place.

“The Government is examining the issues around operationalisation of travel measures announced on January26th as a matter of priority,” it said.

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