Substantial amendments have been made to the Government’s draft Bill on mandatory hotel quarantines, amid fears it represented a clamp down on civil liberties.
The Irish Times reports that the proposed Bill will include penalties up to imprisonment for international arrivals from 20 “high-risk” countries who attempt to avoid compulsory detainment.
Those who flout mandatory hotel quarantine rules could face fines of up to €4,000, under the proposed legislation.
Cabinet Ministers are meeting virtually this evening to finalise the draft Health Amendment Bill, after discussions were adjourned at Cabinet on Tuesday to address concerns raised over the legislation.
Concern was voiced that asylum seekers, minors, or Irish citizens returning for a funeral of a close relative could have their rights adversely affected.
Debate also surrounded the reasons which would permit a person to leave their hotel room, with at least one Minister of the view that confining people to their rooms in all circumstances would be too draconian a measure and open to legal challenge.
Changes to the proposed Bill under discussion on Wednesday night include a provision that will allow people to exit mandatory hotel quarantine after 10 days rather than 14 with a negative test for the virus.
The grounds for exemption from mandatory quarantine have also been expanded, including travel for humanitarian purposes.
It is understood that the legislation in its current form proposes new offences for refusing to take Covid-19 PCR tests or taking risks with health or lives in quarantine.
Those found guilty of these offences could face a €4,000 fine or one month’s imprisonment.
The Bill may also include provisions to increase the current fine for travelling to an airport for non-essential reasons from €500 to €2,000.
Following various delays before this evening’s Cabinet meeting, Government sources have said the Bill is now unlikely to be introduced in the Dáil before next week.
Its final passage may be delayed beyond early March, while hotel quarantines have yet to be operationalised in the State.