Sir, – Eoin Drea compares Ireland's response to the pandemic unfavourably with that of the "European mainstream" and cites his country of residence, Belgium, as a particular example of how things are done better ("Hotel quarantine system is an international embarrassment", Opinion & Analysis, April 17th). Unfortunately, he presents no data to support his claims.
More than half a million lives have been lost across the EU as a result of Covid-19. Each country has its tragic stories to tell. However, it is a fact that the number of deaths associated with Covid in Ireland is less than half that of Belgium – 971 per million in Ireland compared to 2,039 per million people in Belgium.
A number of EU countries have regrettably suffered greater mortality than Ireland, including, in descending order, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Belgium, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Croatia, France, Lithuania, Romania, Sweden, Luxembourg, Latvia and Austria. The numbers for Germany, the Netherlands and Malta are similar, although these countries are only now entering their third wave driven by the B117 variant.
Only Greece, Estonia, Denmark and Finland have recorded fewer deaths.
It should also be noted that Ireland is among a small number of countries that includes in our numbers suspected and probable deaths from Covid even when the patient did not test positive or was not tested at all.
The response of the Irish Government and authorities has not been perfect, but alongside the phenomenal response of the Irish people we have saved many lives.
It is likely that the European Union, the United States, United Kingdom, Iceland, Norway, Israel and some Gulf states will be the only parts of the world to achieve 80 per cent vaccine coverage this year.
Like Mr Drea, I look forward to the return of free movement within the European Union. This can best be done if the European Union takes a common approach to effective travel restrictions from all other parts of the world. – Yours, etc,
LEO VARADKAR TD,
Sir, – Eoin Drea’s article is one of the most incisive analysis pieces I have read on the provision of mandatory hotel quarantining (MHQ) in Ireland. In it, Mr Drea highlights the inconsistencies of the MHQ approach, which was founded on fear and grounded on irrationality.
It would seem, on this at least, that logic has left Government Buildings a long time ago.
What struck me most in this affair is the abysmal treatment of Irish citizens living abroad – people whose travel to Ireland is generally for reasons of seeing family and friends, returning to their home, or simply getting back in time before a dying parent departs.
In any event, it’s hardly what could be considered “frivolous” for the most part.
Yet, despite this, many of us in the Diaspora who would simply wish to return home find ourselves flung into a chaotic, second-class category of citizenship, condemned to confinement for reasons which are neither clear nor consistent. We are effectively being denied access to our own country, by our own Government, for reasons which don’t seem to make sense even to the European Commission, among other, and yet there will be no political backlash – perhaps even the opposite.
Of course, it has forever been the case that the Irish abroad are completely disenfranchised, and this Government clearly understands that it’s easy to pick on those who can’t fight back.
This debacle shows, like none other in our recent history, that it’s high time that the Irish abroad had some form of democratic voice. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Eoin Drea makes a number of valid points in relation to hotel quarantine and Ireland’s overall response to Covid-19, such as our risk of isolation in Europe. However, Mr Drea’s cursory dismissal of international travel as a reason for the spread of Covid-19, in Ireland and elsewhere, is questionable.
Studies have shown that by last summer, Ireland had greatly reduced Covid-19 and that foreign travel was a significant factor behind its subsequent re-emergence last autumn. Moreover, Mr Drea essentially argues that other EU countries allowed citizens to travel last summer because they knew that Covid-19 would re-emerge in the winter anyway, and their citizens needed a break from it all.
However, Mr Drea writes with the benefit of hindsight. Last summer, there was nothing inevitable about a return to the level of restrictions we have since experienced. Indeed, the Irish Government’s ill-fated “Stay and Spend” scheme to support domestic tourism over the winter months would suggest otherwise.
The decision to introduce hotel quarantine was not taken lightly, and the reasons for it should not be so readily dismissed. – Is mise,