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strict rules Nphet members sought hotel quarantine for all travellers entering country

There are currently 33 countries on high-risk list

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Dublin Airport, as the Government introduces legislation enforcing hotel quarantine for international arrivals (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dublin Airport, as the Government introduces legislation enforcing hotel quarantine for international arrivals (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dublin Airport, as the Government introduces legislation enforcing hotel quarantine for international arrivals (Brian Lawless/PA)

Members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) called for hotel quarantining to be imposed on all passengers arriving in Ireland.

The long-awaited quarantine system will be introduced this week but will only be applied to people arriving from 33 countries deemed high-risk for Covid-19.

However, newly released minutes from a Nphet meeting last month show members of the public health taskforce wanted quarantining laws extended to all passengers flying into the country.

At a meeting on February 18, it was noted "some members expressed the view that travel restrictions should be extended to all inbound travellers to Ireland, regardless of the origin of their destination".

The minutes said those who called for the quarantine system to be extended noted how "quickly the epidemiological landscape is evolving" and the importance of the national vaccination programme.

However, Nphet agreed the focus should be on "implementing a robust strategy with a secure legal underpinning for travellers from high-risk countries in the first instance" before any extension of the measures would be considered.

Nphet also said it was "cognisant" of the impact of expanding the system on HSE resources.

Nphet first called for mandatory quarantining measures for overseas travellers to be introduced in May last year.

Opposition parties have been calling for the new quarantine laws to apply to all passengers arriving in Ireland for non-essential purposes.

Senior members of Cabinet also believe the system should be extend to all travellers.

"I think it makes logical sense to extend it to all countries if we are introducing it," a senior minister said.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin's transport spokesperson Darren O'Rourke said the Government "still has time to change tack and to extend the regime".

"Given the fact that many European countries are in, or facing into, further lockdowns, with widespread community transmission of the virus, and with the growing threat of the importation and spread of variants in Ireland, that's exactly what they should do," Mr O'Rourke said.

At present, there are 33 countries on the so-called 'category two' list of states deemed high risk for Covid.

The majority of the countries are in Africa and South America and are not considered busy air traffic routes to Ireland.

The new rules apply to people arriving from South Africa and Brazil, where there are new strains of the virus, but the regulations do not apply to anyone travelling from Britain, where the dominant variant of Covid in Ireland first emerged.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has the power to add countries to the list but does so on the advice of the chief medical officer.

Ireland's quarantine system is the strictest of all EU member states.

Once the new restrictions are officially announced, it will be three days before passengers from category two countries will be required to book places in quarantine hotels.

Travellers will book their places in hotels through an online portal run by the Government. It will cost just under €2,000 for an adult and around €500 for a child under three years old.

Passengers arriving in Dublin Airport from later this week will be transferred to one of four quarantine hotels on arrival.

They will be required to produce a negative test taken within the three days before they travelled. When in quarantine, they will be asked to take a test on the fifth and 10th day of their stay in a hotel. If their second test result comes back negative, they will be permitted to leave quarantine.

Those in quarantine will be allowed to leave their rooms once a day for some exercise or smoking.

However, they will not be permitted to leave the grounds of their hotel.

Passengers who flout hotel quarantine laws could face €4,000 fines and a month in prison for a first offence.

A second offence can be punished by a fine not exceeding €4,500 and/or three months in prison, while a third offence comes with a possible €5,000 fine and or six months in prison.

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