The Irish Government is considering increasing quarantine requirements for travellers from Britain amid concern over the Delta Covid-19 variant, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said on Sunday.
Currently travellers from Britain must self-quarantine but can move freely once they obtain a negative Covid-19 test no less than five days after arrival.
The Delta variant, which was first identified in India, is now the dominant strain in Britain and is proving to be 60 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant Alpha strain.
Asked in an interview with RTÉ radio whether the measures to be considered by the Government in the coming days would include a longer quarantine for British travellers, Mr Coveney said: "Potentially, yes, particularly for people who aren’t vaccinated."
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly spoke with Mr Coveney, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan during the weekend on the matter, according to the Irish Examiner.
"We want to try to get the balance right between protecting the Common Travel Area with the UK as best we can because it's very important, and we need to take on board, the very real and strong public health evidence," Mr Coveney said.
"I was up in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland for the British Irish conference, and we heard from the First Ministers, both in Scotland, and in Wales, 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."
Mr Coveney said he believed that those who are fully vaccinated in the UK "are in a different category" in terms of travel.
He said Mr Donnelly would bring a recommendation to Government, which was examining the issue "seriously".
"I don't think you're going to see dramatic changes in terms of quarantine and travel, but certainly I think you will see some changes to reflect the concern and the danger that the Delta variant represents," he said.
Mr Coveney said that "potentially" this would mean longer quarantine periods for people who are not vaccinated.
Cases in Ireland
The number of cases of the Delta variant in the Republic has increased to 126, according to the latest update from the HSE.
In Northern Ireland, 111 probable and confirmed cases of the variant were detected up to last week.
It comes after one new country was added to the Republic’s mandatory hotel quarantine list on Saturday, while travellers from Britain have been urged to “strictly adhere” to home quarantine amid the spread of the variant.
British prime minister Boris Johnson is poised to sign off plans to delay the lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England, amid growing concerns about the surge in cases of the highly transmissible variant.
Scientists have been pressing for additional time to get more people vaccinated — particularly those in younger age groups — before controls are relaxed.
Speaking in Cornwall on Saturday, a downbeat Mr Johnson acknowledged that the rise of the variant was a matter of “serious, serious concern”.
With infections and hospital admissions both rising, he said that it was not yet clear to what extent that would feed through into more deaths.
—Additional reporting by Reuters.