EU chiefs call on Ireland to have 'less restrictive quarantine measures'

16 April 2021, 19:29

Garda perform Covid-19 stop checks outside Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport
Garda perform Covid-19 stop checks outside Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The EU Commission said that the Irish Government should use "less restrictive" quarantine measures for travellers arriving from EU countries.

The Commission has written a letter to the Government asking it to set out the criteria used to determine which countries go on the quarantine list.

Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand said that the Commission has concerns about the system's "proportionality and non-discrimination".

The State's quarantine system was extended on Thursday to include the US, Belgium, France and Italy.

The updated list now include fives EU countries, including Austria and Luxembourg.

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In a video posted online, Mr Wigand said: "Ireland requires travellers coming from designated countries, irrespective of nationality, to undergo mandatory quarantine hotel.

"This includes five EU member states.

"This Commission has concerns regarding this measure, in relation to the channel of principles of EU law, in particular proportionality and non-discrimination.

"We have been in contact with the Irish authorities during recent days on this matter.

"Today, the Commission sent a letter to the Irish authorities asking for clarifications on this matter and on the criteria used to determine the designated countries.

"The Commission believes that the objective pursued by Ireland, which is the protection of public health during the pandemic, could be achieved by less restrictive measures.

"In line with the (EU) recommendations include clear and operational exemptions for essential travel should be ensured.

"We invite the Irish authorities to align more closely their measures taken with the provisions of the Council recommendation that member states agreed together in October and updated earlier this year.

"The Irish authorities have ten days to reply to the Commission."

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said fully vaccinated people are exempt
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said fully vaccinated people are exempt. Picture: PA

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed that people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are to be exempted from mandatory hotel quarantine.

Mr Donnelly said legal regulations will be required to enact the decision.

Mandatory quarantine was introduced three weeks ago.

As of yesterday evening, 377 people had completed quarantine. There are currently 532 people in designated facilities.

The majority of people arriving in to quarantine are arriving into Dublin Airport from a red-listed country.

As of April 15, 18 people tested positive Covid-19, four are probable variants of concern.

Overall, there have been 907 bookings into the mandatory hotel quarantine system, the Department of Health said.

Of these, 87 were for March, 720 in April, 94 in May, and six in June.

Overall, passenger figures from designated States have fallen since the mandatory hotel quarantine policy was introduced.

Mr Donnelly said: "My Department continues to work with all State stakeholders and with Tifco Hotel Group on this policy, with the shared aim of protecting Ireland from the importation of Covid-19, particularly variants of concern.

"The Government is committed to protecting public health as a matter of urgency.

"It is worth restating that mandatory hotel quarantine is not simply about hotel rooms - it is a complex and collaborative system, requiring support across Government from a range of key state stakeholders, such as the Defence Forces, the Department of Justice, as well as immigration officials, Revenue Customs officials, and An Garda Siochana."

He continued: "Alongside the very many dedicated staff in Tifco hotel group, we are all working to ensure that those who enter mandatory hotel quarantine are comfortable and secure as they comply with the public health advice for all of our benefit."