European Commission asks Irish Government for 'less restrictive' mandatory hotel quarantine

All citizens arriving from five EU member states currently have to quarantine for 12 days, however the EC believe there should be clear and operational exemptions for essential travel to Ireland.
European Commission asks Irish Government for 'less restrictive' mandatory hotel quarantine

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the Government will respond to the questions posed by the EU Commission but she said hotel quarantining has been introduced to protect public health. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The European Commission has written to the Irish Government calling for “less restrictive” mandatory hotel quarantine measures.

All citizens arriving from five EU member states currently have to quarantine for 12 days, however the EC believe there should be clear and operational exemptions for essential travel to Ireland.

The Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand said this morning they were asking the Irish authorities to clarify the criteria used to determine which EU countries faced mandatory hotel quarantine.

"The Commission has concerns regarding this measure in relation to the general principles of EU law, in particular proportionality and non-discrimination," he said.

“We have been in contact with the Irish authorities during the past days on this matter. Today the Commission sent a letter to the Irish authorities asking for clarifications on this matter and on the criteria used to determine the designated countries.

“The Commission believes that the objective pursued by Ireland, which is the protection of public health during the pandemic, could be achieved by less restrictive measures.” 

He said that recommendations agreed by EU health ministers in October and February provided guidelines for member states to follow and that these included operational exemptions for essential travel.

“We invite the Irish authorities to align more closely their measures taken with the provisions of the council recommendation member states agreed in October and updated earlier this year.” 

Irish response

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the Government will respond to the questions posed by the EU Commission but she said hotel quarantining has been introduced to protect public health.

"We do realise the seriousness of what we're doing, we're legally asking people to stay in hotels for up to two weeks if they come into this country. But we are confident in the legal advice that we've received, that this is proportionate and that this is reasonable," she said.

Ms McEntee there is "very clear criteria" for selecting countries to put on the list.

"One example, in France we've seen a particular increase in the variant of concern from South Africa, where it has reached a particular point."

She added: "The Commission have asked us to respond to them, we will of course engage we have always engaged, and we have continued to engage with individual member states but also the Commission throughout all this process."

She said there were always going to be exceptional cases and circumstance and added that the Government are "working towards our exit strategy" as hotel quarantining was never intended to be a long-term measure.

Ms McEntee told RTÉ's News at One that regulations are being developed to exempt people who have been fully vaccinated and have received two negative tests.

'No apologies'

Last night, Stephen Donnelly said he makes "no apologies" for mandatory hotel quarantine, despite the pushback.

The Health Minister said he is confident the system is in compliance with Irish and with EU law and has notified the commission of this.

"I make no apologies to the commission or to anybody else for putting in place the measures that our public health teams believe are the right measures to keep people in this country safe," Mr Donnelly said.

"That's what we've done, and that's what we will continue to do."

Mr Donnelly says the system is doing exactly what we needed to do and "the commission is perfectly entitled to believe what it wants".

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