The European Commission has written to the Irish government asking that the country would loosen its recently introduced mandatory hotel quarantine rules to allow exceptions for people on essential travel.

Ireland is the only member state among 27 EU countries that requires certain travellers from within the EU to quarantine in a hotel, with arrivals from Italy, Belgium, France, Austria and Luxembourg now on the list of approximately 70 nations required to quarantine.

“The Commission has concerns regarding this measure in relation to the general principles of EU law, in particular proportionality and non-discrimination,” commission spokesman Christian Wigand said.

“Today, the Commission sent a letter to the Irish authorities asking for clarifications on this matter and on the criteria used to determine the designated countries.

“The Commission believes that the objective pursued by Ireland, which is the protection of public health during the pandemic, could be achieved by less restrictive measures in line with the Council recommendations.

“Also clear and operational exceptions for essential travel should be ensured,” Wigand said.

Ireland, which has ten days to respond to the letter, is among several other countries whose travel restrictions have been questioned by the commission.

Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Finland and Hungary have all received letters from Brussels asking for the relaxation of certain restrictions thought to go beyond what was agreed at meetings in October and January.

The 27 EU member states had agreed to allow essential travel without quarantining throughout the EU.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last night told RTÉ viewers that he was proud of the “biosecurity” arrangements the country had introduced.

“I make no apologies to the Commission, to the Italian ambassador or anyone else for putting in place the measures that we believe and our public health teams believe are the right measures to keep people safe,” Donnelly said.

“We are now leading Europe by a country mile in terms of the biosecurity measures we have in place. It’s something we should be very proud of and it’s something the people want.”