The Minister for Health has confirmed that a number of states in Central and South America will be added to the Government’s list of “high-risk” countries for travel into the Republic.
On Thursday, the Dáil voted to pass new laws to enforce mandatory hotel quarantine for people arriving from high-risk countries amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Passengers arriving from the countries identified will have to quarantine for a 14-day period in a hotel chosen by the State.
This evening, Minister Stephen Donnelly confirmed 13 additions to the list of some 20 countries, namely: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Minister Donnelly said the aim of the measure was to “protect the population from challenges posed by new variants of concern.”
Regardless of nationality
The quarantine measure applies to all passengers from the designated states, “regardless of nationality”, the Minister added.
He reiterated that official advice remains to avoid all non-essential international travel during the pandemic.
“I brought legislation to the Dáil this week to bring in mandatory quarantine in a designated facility. Once the Bill has passed through all stages in the Oireachtas, it will be referred to the President for his consideration,” Minister Donnelly said.
“Subject to the Bill becoming law, it is the Government’s intention to commence the operation of mandatory quarantine facilities as soon as possible.”
A National Oversight Group for Variants of Concern (VOCS) has been established to monitor and advise upon the challenges posed by variants of concern, the Minister added.
On Thursday evening, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) confirmed that a new variant of potential concern had been identified in the east of the country through contact tracing.
Dr Cillian de Gascun said the variant was different from others because it had a mutation of concern which could be vaccine resistant.
Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Minister Donnelly said the State’s new measures on mandatory quarantine were among the most restrictive regimes in Europe, with the Government able to add more countries at its discretion.
Amendment attempts by opposition parties aimed at expanding hotel quarantines to all passengers entering the country for non-essential reasons appeared set to fail.
Substantial amendments had already been made to the Government’s draft Bill on the quarantines before it reached the Dáil floor, amid fears it represented a clamp down on civil liberties.
Under the new plans, passengers arriving into the Republic from high-risk countries will have to book a slot in one of the designated quarantine hotels.
The traveller will foot a bill of around €2,000, which will cover accommodation, full board, laundry and transport.
Those who flout mandatory quarantine rules could face fines of up to €4,000 or imprisonment, under the new laws.
Minister Donnelly has confirmed that around 10,500 people arrived into Ireland through Dublin Airport last week, with between 1,000 and 3,500 people arriving each day.