Mandatory quarantine rules unlikely, says Tánaiste

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is playing down the likelihood of mandatory quarantine rules coming into effect, saying there are not enough hotels and staff to put large amounts of people into isolation.
Mandatory quarantine rules unlikely, says Tánaiste
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he would like to see a return to international travel as soon as possible.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he would like to see a return to international travel as soon as possible.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is playing down the likelihood of mandatory quarantine rules coming into effect, saying there are not enough hotels and staff to put large amounts of people into isolation.

The newly-appointed Enterprise, Trade and Employment minister said he would like to see a return to international travel as soon as possible.

However, the current advice is still that non-essential journeys overseas should be avoided, he said.

He was speaking ahead of a Cabinet sub-committee meeting about the issue tomorrow, where ministers will assess proposals for a 'green' list of countries that people can travel to and from without quarantine.

But, ahead of any new decision by the new coalition, Mr Varadkar shot down any chances of mandatory quarantine being introduced.

“We don’t have the adequate number of airport hotels” or security staff to detain such a large amount of people that travel to Ireland on a daily basis, he said.

He added that before the Covid-19 pandemic, “tens of thousand of people” travelled to Ireland every week.

“If you think we’ve a problem with Direct Provision it is more than that every day,” he said.

The comments come after newly-appointed Health Minister Stephen Donnelly earlier this week told the Dáil that there was a debate within government about whether legislation is needed to make quarantine for 14 days mandatory for people arriving in Ireland.

Social Democrats co-leader, Roisin Shortall, said she believes it is “dangerous” to allow people leave airports without an effective quarantine.

Instead, they should be put in hotels, she says: "That's how other countries have dealt with travel successfully. That applies if the levels within the UK are high or if there are levels anywhere else that are high.

The Government needs to be able to respond to what's happening. The alternative is to have an open-door policy.

A final recommendation on the green list, the issue of quarantine, and international travel is expected to be tabled before Cabinet on Monday.

But Mr Varadkar said today that if there is a list of safe countries to travel to and from on July, as was planned by the outgoing government, travellers may in fact be only told to use that new system at a later date: “Yes, that is possible, that we will produce a list and the date that it comes into effect may not be the ninth of July.

"What I do appreciate though is that there is uncertainty.

I know for a lot of people who want to travel abroad to see friends and family, many people that they haven't seen for months, or people who want to travel abroad for other purposes, what they would like is clarity and certainty from government.

While wanting to see international travel starting up again, Mr Varadkar also acknowledged any risks with this: "We have to be smart about the fact that if we open our country to areas where the virus is still circulating and virulent, then that does run the risk of re-importation.

"At the same time, we all know we can’t cut off the country forever. We can’t stop people from visiting their friends and families.

"We can’t stop business executives coming into Ireland to create jobs so we need to get that balance right.”

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