Minister defends hotel quarantine after brother criticises 'incompetence'

ireland
Minister Defends Hotel Quarantine After Brother Criticises 'Incompetence'
The Minister’s brother Patrick said it was 'hard to overstate the incompetence & lack of foresight' in relation to the system. Photo: PA Images.
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Vivienne Clarke

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has defended Ireland's hotel quarantine system, saying it is necessary to keep out variants of concern.

The Minister told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that he had spoken to his brother Patrick, chief executive of Greencore, who recently criticised mandatory hotel quarantine in a tweet.

Minister Coveney declined to reveal what he had said to his brother, but said that in a democracy everyone had a right to express their point of view. He said he did not agree with his brother and felt that mandatory health quarantine was necessary to shield the country from Covid-19.

In a post on Twitter on Tuesday evening — as bookings for the quarantine system paused due to capacity issues — the Minister’s brother Patrick said it was “hard to overstate the incompetence & lack of foresight here.”

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He added: “Ireland is now officially shut off from US & most of EU with little hope of being able to safely source the massive levels of hotel ‘prison capacity’ to sustain #MHQ [mandatory hotel quarantine] policy.”

Speaking on Thursday, Minister Coveney said his brother did not consult with him before he tweeted his opinion. He said he had five brothers and a sister, all with their own independent views: “I'm certainly not going to be my brother's keeper on this one.”

The Minister held firm in his view that the quarantine system was the right approach to take and said it would improve with time.

“We will get benefits from it. Once everyone is vaccinated we will have an entirely different level of protection,” the Minister said.

“Mandatory hotel quarantine is temporary, but it is necessary.”

Mandatory hotel quarantine is not easy to implement that's why no other country in the European Union is doing it

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He added: “Mandatory hotel quarantine is not easy to implement that's why no other country in the European Union is doing it... I believe that mandatory hotel quarantine is the right thing to do.”

Minister Coveney said other Government departments were helping the Department of Health to ensure the system worked effectively, but it was appropriate that the Department of Health have the primary responsibility.

The Government was now considering the position of people who were fully vaccinated and he was hopeful that a decision and readjustment would be ready soon, he added.

The appeals process would also need to be reconsidered especially from a humanitarian approach.

Vaccine queue

The Minister also reiterated comments made by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar earlier on Thursday, saying that anyone who chose not to accept an offer of the AstraZeneca vaccine was “putting themselves to the back of the queue.”

Mr Coveney said vaccines were safe and their benefits far outweighed the risks. “Nobody can force anyone to take anything,” he added.

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Those who refuse AstraZeneca will go to back of va...
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“The message needs to be very clear. AstraZeneca is safe. And it's particularly safe for people over the age of 60, in the context of the threats they face from Covid,” he said.

“People should trust the system because the decisions are being made by public health experts, not by politicians, when it comes to who gets what, and when.”

The safest thing for people to do was to say yes to whichever vaccine was being offered, Mr Coveney said. The more people who got vaccinated the quicker restrictions would be eased.

If people were allowed to pick and choose, the vaccine rollout would not proceed at the pace needed, he warned.

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