A suite of new travel restrictions are to be signed off today by Government in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
Cabinet is also set to approve an extension of the current level 5 lockdown until March 5.
Ministers met last night to discuss the ongoing issues with Covid-19 in the country and agreed to implement unprecedented international travel limitations. A much greater Garda presence will also be visible to enforce measures.
The Covid-19 Cabinet sub-committee agreed that all those coming from South Africa and Brazil, where Covid variants have been found, will face mandatory quarantine when entering the country.
The period of quarantine will be no less than five days and no more than 14 if the person tests positive on day five, with a final decision to be taken at Cabinet today. All hotel quarantine will be at the traveller's expense.
Passengers entering from other regions will be expected to self-isolate and this requirement will now be "legally binding and penal" and will no longer be advisory, as has been the case up to this point.
Those arriving without a negative PCR test look also set to be hit with a fine of up to €2,500 or six months in prison.
The Government is also keenly watching news from London as to whether a “two-island” quarantine approach will be taken.
Ministers will also approve the establishment of Garda checkpoints outside airports to stop non-essential travel, with increased fines for those leaving for non-essential purposes.
There will also be the introduction of much stricter sanctions in terms of the five-kilometre rule to stop people flying.
This will include fines for those who try to go abroad for non-essential reasons.
However, it is understood that this may take some time to implement as arrangements will have to be made with hotels.
"It won't be immediate because it has to be set up and that will be led by the Department of Health," said a senior Government source.
Ministers also discussed the possibility of testing people on arrival at airports as well as requiring a PCR test prior to travelling. However, it is understood that many issues still have to be hammered out.
"Some things will be worked on over the course of the evening and into the morning ahead of Cabinet," one senior Government minister said.
The Cabinet will approve:
- A ban on holiday visas or short-term visas for those coming from South Africa and certain countries in South America;
- Antigen testing at motorway services areas close to Dublin Port and Rosslare for hauliers travelling to France from Thursday;
- Strengthening the passenger locator form with more questions asked and more follow ups after a person arrives in the country;
- * Fixed notice penalties, currently set at €100, are to be increased for those found beyond the 5km limit from their homes;
- Construction sites, apart from those currently allowed to operate, will remain closed until then;
- No decision on the re-opening of schools will be taken with the position to be “kept under review”.
The news comes as seven additional deaths were confirmed last evening by the Department of Health, bringing the death toll in Ireland to 2,977.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn said nearly four times as many people have died with Covid-19 so far this month compared to all of December.
So far this month, there have been 688 deaths associated with the virus compared to 175 deaths in December and 164 in November.
Virus outbreaks continue to emerge in the community, with over 100 cases associated with two outbreaks at meat processing plants, including some 66 at ABP in Bandon. Both that facility and Slaney Foods in Co Wexford, where 42 positive cases were identified, are now operating at reduced capacity.
Meanwhile, the EU Commission President has said AstraZeneca's explanation for its slow-down in vaccine delivery is "not satisfactory".
Ursula von der Leyen spoke to the company's chief executive this morning and a second meeting is scheduled for tonight.
It emerged at the weekend the company is to cut its vaccine delivery to the EU by 60% in the first quarter of this year.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the vaccines that have been pre-ordered must be provided swiftly.
"The answers from the company have not been satisfactory so far and that is why a second meeting is scheduled for tonight."