Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has blamed airlines for the lack of capacity in mandatory hotel quarantine.
The Department of Health has paused taking bookings at mandatory quarantine hotels due to a lack of available rooms, but the issue is down to airlines not enforcing “legal requirements,” rather than a lack of foresight by the Government he said.
“The issue is not the capacity,” he said, “we have enough rooms to deal with people coming in on the flights where they have verification.”
“The problem actually, and it's only for a few days, is that there are a number of airlines which have not been enforcing the legal requirements to not let people board the plane without the pre-flight PCR, the passenger locator form and the verified room.”
Mr Donnelly said Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan is engaging with carriers on the issue.
The minister also said there will be significant additional capacity from next Monday when room numbers will increase from 650 to around 960.
“The following Monday we're moving to an excess of 1300,” he said, adding that the system will be kept under review when asked if capacity might increase further.
While Mr Donnelly said he was aware of “heartbreaking stories” concerning people who had come back to be with sick relatives and were stuck in mandatory quarantine, he said he would not “apologise to anyone for putting in place measures that are designed to keep people living in Ireland safe.”
“We're looking at all of that..but ultimately this is a public health measure and it’s there to deal with variants of concern.”
“And from that perspective it is working...it is doing its primary job.”
When asked when fully vaccinated people may expect to hear an update on whether they would be exempt from mandatory hotel quarantine in Ireland, he said “soon.”
However, he stressed that mandatory hotel quarantine is not in place to protect the person coming into the country.
“It's there to protect everybody else from the risk that that person could have.”
“The fact that the person themselves is protected from Covid is irrelevant.”
The minister said it is only now that there is sufficient amounts of data regarding how vaccinations impact transmission.
“We're still looking at emerging data on the impact of transmissibility that the vaccines have on the variants,” he said.