Tighter rules on entering Ireland to be discussed with Stormont

Options thought to include closer supervision of quarantine for people coming in

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visiting the headquarters of the Civil Defence. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visiting the headquarters of the Civil Defence. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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The Government is examining ways to tighten restrictions on people entering the country and will discuss the plans with the Northern Ireland Executive, it said on Monday night following a meeting of the Cabinet subcommittee on Covid-19.

Government Buildings refused to divulge the options under consideration, though they are thought to include closer supervision of quarantine for people who come to the country.

In a statement the Government said: “Ireland needs to find a balance which allows the airports and ports to stay open . . . but which minimises the risk of transmission of the virus, including the requirement for people arriving into Ireland to self-restrict their movements for 14 days.”

The Cabinet committee discussed “a range of options”, the statement said, but officials refused to give any further details. They will be discussed by the Cabinet when it meets on Tuesday.

The moves have been prompted by the controversy over the arrival of almost 200 seasonal workers from Bulgaria to work for north Dublin fruit company Keelings this week.

Earlier Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government would examine how it could get Irish workers to fill seasonal jobs as fruit pickers and agricultural workers.

Speaking in Dublin, where he was visiting the headquarters of the Civil Defence, Mr Varadkar agreed that agriculture workers were deemed to be essential workers, but said: “When we deemed agriculture workers to be essential workers, I hadn’t envisaged hundreds of agricultural workers coming in from outside the country.”

He said the Government would work with the sector “to see if we can find an adequate number of Irish people or people resident in Ireland at the very least who will take up those positions”.

If not, Mr Varadkar said, “we have to take a decision”.

“Do we allow the crop to fail, which isn’t a good thing, or do we allow workers to continue to come in from other parts of the EU but with very defined and monitored quarantine arrangements?”

Holohan warning

The Cabinet subcommittee on Covid-19 met on Monday to discuss a number of issues, including the arrangements for foreign workers, after Mr Varadkar promised a review of the arrangements.

Keelings said it had advertised the jobs to Irish workers, but had received few responses. Although the Government has designated agricultural workers to be “essential”, chief medical officer Tony Holohan warned that bringing hundreds of workers into the country was “not consistent” with public health advice.

“We need to keep our airports open, we need to keep our posts open,” Mr Varadkar said.

“We need essential workers to be able to come in and out . . . but we also make sure it’s done in such a way as minimises the risk of the transmission of the virus. And that means asking people to self-isolate, to self-restrict their movements for 14 days – that has been done since the very start of this outbreak but what we’re looking at now are the better ways that we could monitor that people are actually doing that.”

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