Thirteen more countries have been added to the Government’s list of ‘high-risk’ as regards Covid-19.
Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela were all moved onto the list this evening.
In total, 33 countries are now on Ireland’s high-risk or ‘Category 2’ travel list.
Brazil and South Africa, where new coronavirus variants are thought to have originated, were the first countries added to the list on Feb 5.
They were followed by Angola, Austria, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Eswatini, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Zambia, and Zimbabwe on February 12.
Arrivals from all of the above countries, regardless of their nationality, are required to quarantine for a period of two weeks.
The current list of category 2 countries is reviewed on an ongoing basis.
In a statement this evening, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the Government would continue to advise against "all non-essential international travel at this time."
“I brought legislation to the Dáil this week to bring in mandatory quarantine in a designated facility," the minister said.
"Once the Bill has passed through all stages in the Oireachtas, it will be referred to the President for his consideration.
"Subject to the Bill becoming law, it is the Government’s intention to commence the operation of mandatory quarantine facilities as soon as possible.”
The minister also said that a National Oversight Group for Variants of Concern (VOCS) has been established to monitor and advise upon the challenges posed by VOCs.
The Group provides advice to the Chief Medical Officer, who in turn advises the Minister for Health on countries to be specified as category 2 under the current Regulations (S.I. No. 44 of 2021).
On Friday, health officials said they were concerned that a case of variant B1525 had been identified in Ireland.
The variant has been found in 32 other countries so far including the UK, Denmark, the US and Australia.
The minister said the current list of category 2 countries is subject to review "on an ongoing basis."