Cabinet not at loggerheads over new hotel quarantine countries, Donnelly insists

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It would be concerning if EU countries such as France, Germany and Italy with high levels of worrying Covid variants are not added to Ireland’s mandatory hotel quarantine list, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said.

he Minister said that the mandatory quarantine system was there as an extra level of biosecurity reserved for the “most highest risk countries” and these are what it should be used for”.

The four EU variant-of-concern countries Minister Donnelly referred to were Austria (already on the list), France, Germany and Italy.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time, he said: “The advice we have that is of concern to me and to other colleagues is the variant-of-concern countries.

“The point of mandatory hotel quarantining – we only want this to be a short term thing for a few months – the core function of it is to stop people from coming into the country from these countries”.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Simon Coveney have spoken against the idea of adding EU countries like France, Germany and Italy, as well as the US, to the list, and Minister Donnelly said the decision was not one for him but for the Cabinet as a whole, adding that “any decision will be guided by consensus”.

Minister Donnelly said there has been some “painting of Minister Coveney or others as somehow being anti-hotel quarantining and they’re not”.

“There’s been some depiction that Cabinet are at loggerheads over this and we really aren’t. Simon Coveney and I want the best answer for Ireland,” Minister Donnelly said.

The Minister said the country will have enough mandatory quarantine hotel rooms “for whatever countries we decide to add”.

“We are ramping up capacity – we have over 600 rooms, of which less than half is in use – and I want to see the variant-of-concern countries added,” he insisted once again.

Minister Donnelly acknowledged that countries such as Australia and New Zealand have a cap on the number of people allowed to enter the country and said “that is certainly something that can be looked at”.

When asked if he was ruling out putting a cap on the number of people allowed into the country, Minister Donnelly said: “No, you would keep everything on the table.”

The Minister revealed there are 560 vaccinators in place right now with “a further 800 that can be deployed right away”.

Minister Donnelly said this will be “more than enough” to administer all delivered doses in April “and into May” but he acknowledged the HSE must keep hiring vaccinators.

The use of the AstraZeneca vaccine is under constant review from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and Minister Donnelly said updated advice is expected from them on Thursday. He said all the advice as of now is to proceed with using AstraZeneca for adults of all ages.

This comes after the EMA’s head of vaccines told an Italian newspaper than there was a link between the vaccine and blood clots.

Online Editors

Source: Irish News