A system of mandatory quarantine for incoming air and sea passengers would be “disproportionate” and “unworkable,” Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.
Responding to questions from Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy, Mr Varadkar said Ireland has seen a near total collapse in incoming foreign travel to just 33,000 people a week, with the majority of these people undertaking what he called “essential travel”. Ms Murphy said data given to her indicated that 49% of incoming passengers failed to comply with the passenger locator form.
Ms Murphy highlighted what she called clear deficiencies in the current system and contrasted the fining of people living here who have travelled outside their 5km limit from their homes.
Ms Murphy sought clarity as to what additional measures the Government was prepared to take to deal with the risk posed by incoming travel.
The PCR test is not sufficient, she said, because a second confirmatory test is required within a matter of days and it is not possible to ensure visitors act on quarantine restrictions.
Mr Varadkar said the Government's new mandatory requirement of a PCR test was being met with a very high degree of compliance, and fines were being issued for those who breach the rules. However, health officials have said these testing requirements are not sufficient.
During Leaders’ Questions, Mr Varadkar outlined three main reasons for opposing mandatory quarantine, as is in operation in countries such as Australia.
He said such measures would be disproportionate, as people already living here who are Covid positive would not be subject to such a quarantine.
He also cited the EU's clear rules on the freedom of movement as a reason not to do it but also that Ireland cannot control its land border with Northern Ireland in the same way many other countries can.
Responding to Independent TD Denis Naughten, Mr Varadkar confirmed that full-level 5 lockdown restrictions were likely to continue as we are "nowhere near where we need to be" in terms of case numbers.