Unvaccinated passengers from UK may face longer self-quarantine period

Department of Health confirms 315 cases of Covid-19 in the State, with 22 in ICU

Simon Coveney: ‘We want to try to get the balance right between protecting the Common Travel Area with the UK and the very real and strong public health evidence.’ Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Simon Coveney: ‘We want to try to get the balance right between protecting the Common Travel Area with the UK and the very real and strong public health evidence.’ Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

A further 315 cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed in the State, according to the Department of Health.

There are 62 people in hospital, with 22 in ICU, connected to the disease.

Meanwhile, passengers travelling from the UK who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 may face a longer home-quarantine period because of serious concerns about the spread of the Delta variant.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said there would be “some changes [to rules on quarantine and travel] to reflect the concern and the danger that the Delta variant represents” under plans being considered by Government, but said the changes would not be dramatic.

“We want to try to get the balance right between protecting the Common Travel Area with the UK as best we can, because it is very important, and the very real and strong public health evidence,” the Minister said.

The Delta variant originated in India and is now the dominant strain in Britain.

The spread of the more transmissible variant is likely to delay the full reopening of British society and economy, a decision on which is expected to be announced by British prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday.

In the Republic, a Government decision is expected following Cabinet discussions this week on the issue, which is expected to result in increased restrictions particularly for passengers not vaccinated against Covid-19.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was in talks at the weekend with Mr Coveney, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

Mr Coveney attended a meeting of the British-Irish Council at Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh, on Friday where he heard from the first ministers of Wales and Scotland. “They are very concerned about the Delta variant, or many people might know it as the Indian variant. And so we need to do what we can to make sure, within reason, that we slow down the spread of that variant into Ireland at an absolute minimum, and do what we can to protect it,” he told RTÉ’s This Week programme.

“Obviously I think people who are fully vaccinated are in a different category in the UK, in terms of travelling, to people who are not vaccinated.”

He said the Minister for Health would bring a recommendation to Government, and acknowledged that it could potentially affect unvaccinated passengers arriving from the UK. “I don’t want to announce anything today but just to say we are looking at this seriously.”

Current regulations require self-quarantining at home by passengers, with a PCR test required five days after arrival.

Regional air routes

Mr Coveney also said he is “absolutely” confident that another operator will be found for regional air services on the Dublin-Kerry and Dublin-Donegal routes after Stobart Air ceased trading.

The airline operated 12 routes for Aer Lingus but announced it was seeking to appoint a liquidator on Saturday. Aer Lingus has said it will resume five routes, while BA CityFlyer will operate two at least for the next week.

The Dublin-Kerry and Dublin-Donegal routes have yet to resume but Mr Coveney said “I am absolutely” confident that the two regional routes will resume although “it will require a conversation around the level of subsidy”.

He said “there is no shortage of planes and operators right now” and stressed that “regional connectivity is really important to this Government”.

Mr Coveney said the Government has been “putting a significant amount of taxpayers’ money” into subsidising the routes between Dublin and Kerry and Dublin and Donegal to ensure there is reasonable connectivity by air in all parts of the country.

The Government provides public service obligation funding of €7 million annually towards the operation of the routes.

Asked by interviewer Justin McCarthy if the Government would increase the subsidy for these operations, Mr Coveney said he could not give that commitment but said it was a matter for the Minister for Transport in consultation with the Government.

In Northern Ireland, there have been no further Covid-19 deaths recorded by Stormont’s Department of Health in the last 24-hour reporting period.

There were another 70 confirmed cases of the virus recorded.

The department said 1,863,974 vaccines have been administered in total. – Additional reporting by PA

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