'Nothing off the table' in Covid-19 travel restrictions, says minister

The government will meet in the coming days, with potential new travel restrictions among the topics for discussion. 
'Nothing off the table' in Covid-19 travel restrictions, says minister

An empty Cork Airport. Mandatory quarantine for travellers is set to be discussed by Cabinet in the coming days. Picture: daa

"Nothing is off the table" when it comes to introducting potential travel restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19, the justice minister has said.

Pressure is mounting on leaders to implement a mandatory quarantine. A cabinet sub-committee is due to meet to discuss the matter in the coming days, and leaders are understood to be split on plans.

However, Helen McEntee insists they are not ruling anything out.

Nphet has been recommending a two-week hotel quarantine for travellers for the last eight months. It's understood Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan are against the move.

Government ministers have noted that due to the open border with the north, the measures would not be as effective in Ireland as other countries.

The Minister of Justice said the cabinet will discuss "a number of things" on Tuesday.

"We have moved to introduce quite significant new measures in the last two weeks alone. We introduced mandatory PCR testing, firstly, for those coming in from the UK and South Africa, and then to every single country, so no matter where you're coming from, no matter who you are, you have to produce a PCR test," she said.

"You might have false negatives. You might have people who pick up the virus after they've had the test and we have to try and capture that so that's why we'll discuss a number of things this week."

"Nothing is off the table" when it comes to introducting potential travel restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19, the justice minister has said. Picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

"Nothing is off the table" when it comes to introducting potential travel restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19, the justice minister has said. Picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Last week, Nphet said the idea of letting people in with a PCR test alone would miss 40% of cases.

A five day quarantine proposal from the government for people who don't have a PCR test has been described by doctors and scientists as "faffing about", "worse than useless" and "pointless".

"There are challenges, not just in terms of the numbers, even though the number of people coming into this country has decreased significantly, but how you then enforce this. And then you have to look at specific countries as well, so we don't just have the UK variants, but we have other types of variants that are emerging, to move to potentially ban travel from those places to Europe," Ms McEntee added, speaking on RTÉ radio.

"So all of these are options that are on the table - and I wouldn't say that anything is off the table at the moment - but we do need to make sure that what we put in place and whatever we introduce can work, that it's enforceable, and we do have to take into account the fact that we do have an open border with the UK. 

"That's why conversations have been happening between the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister this week, and are constantly engaging with the Northern Ireland Executive to make sure that if we moved to put more stricter measures in place that they will actually work and that we won't have people coming through the North."

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