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room service State will cover the cost of quarantine bill for people who can’t afford €1,875 mandatory hotel stay

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The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dublin

The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dublin

Covid testing

Covid testing

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The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dublin

The State will cover the cost of mandatory hotel quarantine stays for some walk-ins — travellers who arrived in Ireland without a booking and claim they cannot afford the €1,875 bill for the obligatory 14-day isolation period.

In cases where it has been determined a traveller cannot afford to pay, the Government has accepted the State will have to cover the cost.

Applicants through the system are not means-tested, but sources said claims that a person cannot pay are examined before it is determined if the State will cover their costs.

“There is no doubt about it, there will be some inability to pay, and I think the State will have to [pay],” said a Government source.

“That is not a straight forward process and there would have to be an examination around inability to pay.

“It’s not like we are accepting it.”

People arriving from 71 designated countries are subject to mandatory hotel quarantine on arrival, even if they only transited through an airport to catch a connecting flight on the way to Ireland.

All arrivals must have evidence of a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before landing in Ireland.

In some instances, walk-ins have been forced to quarantine because their PCR test did not meet this criteria or because a delay in their journey pushed them beyond the 72 hours. Meanwhile, border control management staff have also reported instances where travellers presented with fake PCR test results.

People who have not travelled from a designated country but fail to meet the PCR test criteria are brought to mandatory hotel quarantine to undergo a Covid-19 test that day or the following day. If the test comes back with a negative result, the person is free to leave. This means they pay only a portion of the €1,875 bill for the nights they were in quarantine.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health did not answer questions on spending to cover the hotel quarantine costs for people who cannot afford to pay, but said “walk-ins were accounting for about on average 40pc of daily bookings of rooms, the rest being pre-booked”.

Figures released last week show 30,000 people arrived from abroad in the previous two weeks. In the first three weeks since mandatory hotel quarantine was introduced, 377 successfully served quarantine. There were 720 bookings for April.

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Another 98 passengers who recently arrived in Ireland were walk-ins.

Yesterday, more than 300 extra hotel rooms were made available for quarantine, bringing capacity in the system to 959. This is expected to increase to more than 1,600 before the end of April.

Sources said people who claim they are unable to pay for their mandatory hotel quarantine bills have often travelled from a designated country. Some are travellers who have not made a reservation or claimed they were not aware they had to stay in mandatory hotel quarantine upon arrival.

“There has been an issue with border management saying people are coming in with fake bits of paper and saying that is a negative PCR test. Some of those are also counted as walk-ins,” added a Government source.

“If border management determines it is not a valid negative PCR, then they are forced into quarantine, but not for the 14 days, only until such time as they get a negative test.

"They are tested on the day or the next day they go in to quarantine and the results are fairly rapid. If it is a negative test, then they leave. So their bill may only be one night or two nights, not €1,875.”

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