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new rules Government has been 'way too slow' with introducing mandatory hotel quarantine - Sam McConkey

Professor Sam McConkey said that the Irish government has not been fast enough to pass legislation which makes self-isolating legally necessary.

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(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

The Government’s introduction of mandatory quarantine for people travelling from other countries into Ireland has been “way too slow”, an infectious disease expert has said.

Professor Sam McConkey said that the Irish government has not been fast enough to pass legislation which makes self-isolating legally necessary.

Mr McConkey, who is the head of the department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland said “a massive investment” in public health is needed.

Last Thursday, the government finally signed off on the primary legislation to bring mandatory quarantine into law. First time offenders who break the quarantine could face a €4,000, or even imprisonment.

A second offence could see fines of up to €4,500 or three months in prison, while a third offence could raise fines to €5,000 or six months in prison - or both. In addition, people who have to quarantine will be footing the bill.

Mr McConkey said he wasn’t supporting a total travel ban, recalling comments from another infectious disease expert - Professor Paddy Mallon - who said in the early days of the pandemic that the border on the island of Ireland should be completely closed.

“I was saying no, we need some travel for business, we should have mandatory 14-day quarantine for everyone,” Mr McConkey told Newstalk Breakfast. “And those were the two balanced sides of the polemic argument.”

“Sadly now here we are ten months later and we haven't done either, we're only considering the legislation to do the latter.”

He similarly added that a lot more should be done to improve the country’s test and trace services, including the testing of casual contacts. He said testing “should come to the people”, rather than the other way around.

The government has also received criticism from other Dáil members for how long it took to introduce legislation around mandatory quarantine, with Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty saying it was a “half-baked attempt” to deal with the issue.

While everyone would have to go through a period of self-isolation after travelling in from abroad, most people would be able to free themselves from quarantine after five days with a negative Covid-19 test. However, those travelling in from 19 countries would have to stay quarantined for the full 14 days, even with a negative test.

Both South Africa and Brazil are parts of that list because of the new virus mutations that have arisen there. Mr McCokney described the Brazilian variant as “concerning”, particularly since three cases of it were identified in Ireland last Friday.

“It's not that it transmits more to people, the big concern is that it might escape the protection of the vaccine,” he said. “These things can spread even in vaccinated people is the absolute terror of all of us.”

“Maybe they're partially protected, but that partially might be quite small like 50pc protection.”

On a final note, he added that: “I think there's more we still could do and the government could do to try and take control, particularly this backwards contract tracing, going back 14 days and mapping out every person and every place that the person with Covid has had and then using geocoding and a database to match each individual to Covid and see where are the outbreaks.”



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