PASSENGERS may be able to leave quarantine hotels after five days if they test negative for Covid-19 under plans being considered to deal with a potential surge in people arriving from high-risk countries
enior government officials are locked in talks over how to add more EU countries, and the US, to the hotel quarantine list.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has sought to add more countries including France, Italy and Germany to the list over public health concerns about new Covid variants.
However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney opposed the move over legal concerns about restricting EU citizens and the capacity of the system.
A high-level meeting of senior officials yesterday heard proposals to reduce the length of time people are required to stay in quarantine hotels from 10 days to five once they test negative.
One Government source said there was a belief among officials that passengers in hotels should be treated the same as those quarantining at home, and it could also reduce the price. However, another source said the hotel stay would only be cut if there were capacity issues.
Last night, Minister Donnelly told RTE PrimeTime 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.
The 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”.
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.”
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Source: Irish News