Unvaccinated passengers arriving in Ireland from Britain face new quarantine rules amid Delta variant threat

Philip Ryan

Unvaccinated passengers arriving in Ireland from Britain will be forced to quarantine at home for longer under new Government plans to tackle the threat posed by the Delta variant.

British travellers can currently end their home quarantining after five days if they have written confirmation of a negative PCR test for Covid-19.

This is expected to be increased by a number of days for unvaccinated people travelling from Britain.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the rising number of cases linked to the Delta variant in Britain is concerning and said new measures will be introduced to prevent the more transmissible virus taking hold in Ireland.

"I don't want to announce anything today but we are looking at this seriously,” Mr Coveney told RTE’s This Week, before adding that the Government was looking at “potentially longer quarantine periods particularly for people who aren't vaccinated”.

Mr Coveney said he spoke to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly over the weekend and expects recommendations on travel to and from Britain to be announced this week.

“We need to do what we can to make sure, within reason, that we do that we slow down the spread of that variant into Ireland at an absolute minimum,” he said.

“Obviously I think people who are fully vaccinated are in a different category in the UK in terms of travelling to people who are not vaccinated,” he added.

There are no plans to impose mandatory hotel quarantining on passengers from Britain.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Monday that the final stage of easing Covid restrictions in England – slated for June 21 – is to be put on hold for up to four weeks amid a surge in cases of the Delta variant first identified in India.

The move has angered some senior Tories, who have said there is no justification for another “catastrophic” delay to so-called “freedom day” when social distancing finally comes to an end.

However, Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Nervtag group which advises ministers on new respiratory diseases, said it was clear the country was facing a “substantial” third wave of the disease.

He said the key issue was the extent to which that led to more people becoming seriously ill and requiring hospital treatment.

“We still don’t know how bad it could be,” he told BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

He said it was “extremely worrying” that the Delta variant – which now accounts for 96% of new infections – was proving to be 60% more transmissible than the previously dominant Alpha strain first identified in Kent.

“That is the thing that will drive the speed with which the next wave comes along,” he said.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said ministers and officials were monitoring the data in “real time” to determine when it would be safe to open up.

He said they were in a “race” to get the second dose of the vaccine – which has been shown to provide significantly greater protection against the Delta variant than a single jab – to as many people as possible.

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