Grace period before mandatory quarantine becomes operational 

Full announcement of locations, costs, and arrangements around transport and security will be made mid-week
Grace period before mandatory quarantine becomes operational 

The system will not be active until the end of this week or early next week. File picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The law enacting mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from specified countries has been signed by the president, but the system will not be active until the end of this week or early next week.

While the quarantine mechanisms have been "largely finalised", a grace period is needed to allow those who are due to fly into Ireland this week to book their places in the facilities. 

A full announcement of locations, costs, and the arrangements around transport and security will be made mid-week.

A senior source said the hotels will not necessarily be "on the airport campuses" but would be close by. 

A "one-stop-shop" provider will run the logistics of the system, which will cost around €2,000 for the 14-day stay in the facility.

Guests will be delivered three meals a day, but will not be allowed to interact with other guests and will be released from quarantine with a negative PCR test on day 14. 

They will be given a "letter of completion" when they are allowed to leave the hotels.

Under the new legislation, any arrival who fails to adhere to the rules will be fined €4,000 and face a possible month in prison.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly welcomed the enactment of the bill, saying that it would play a part in Ireland's attempts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The act is another important element of Ireland’s defence against Covid-19 and I welcome today’s news that it has become law. 

"The operationalisation of designated quarantine facilities is being advanced on a cross-departmental basis as a matter of priority.”

The Department of Health is leading the implementation process, supported by a number of departments and agencies including foreign affairs, transport, justice, public expenditure and reform, as well as children, equality, disability, integration and youth, the Defence Forces, and via input from the private sector, a statement said. 

However, the potential role of An Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces has not been confirmed and it is understood that private security firms will handle transport to and from the facilities.

Penalties for non-essential international travel have also increased from a €500 fine to €2,000.

“The next step in this process is to finalise and sign a contract with a service provider. I anticipate this will happen shortly,” said Mr Donnelly.

A national oversight group for variants of concern has been established to monitor and address the challenges posed by the changing nature of the virus. 

This group provides advice to the chief medical officer, who in turn advises the minister for health on countries to be specified as designated states. 

Mr Donnelly has previously told the Dáil that the legislation is written in such a way as to provide him with the flexibility to add and remove countries as their national Covid situation changes.

The list of category two  countries is subject to ongoing review, but currently contains Austria and the UAE as well as 17 African countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mauritius and 14 South American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

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