Credit: Houses of the Oireachtas

Lockdown extended to March, hotel quarantine for travellers without negative test

Travellers into Ireland will be required to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks if they fail to present a negative test result upon arrival.

The move comes as the Cabinet Committee signed off last night on an extension to the current Level 5 lockdown until March 5th, five weeks more than originally planned due to a continuing shortage of staff and ICU beds in some hospitals.

Travellers from Brazil and South Africa will automatically be held in a quarantine hotel for two weeks, along with those who fail to present a negative test result. Such travellers lacking this result will also face fines of up to €2,500 and/or up to six months in prison.

All other travellers will be legally required to quarantine for 14 days, in a change to what was up until now an advisory step, whilst passengers arriving in Northern Ireland and travelling to the Republic will also be legally bound to quarantine.

Gardaí will also step up patrols and checkpoints around airports in a bid to deter people travelling for non-essential reasons. Such travellers will face a €100 fine for breaching the 5km rule.

Speaking last night on RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the government has not ruled out a mandatory quarantine for all travellers, but that such measures would “probably be for a year” if implemented and would need the co-operation of Northern Ireland.

“For us to do it on our own it would not be fully effective, as the Republic of Ireland, it would not be fully effective because of the border,” Varadkar said.

“It would be like soup in a sieve, it would slow it down but wouldn’t be fully effective. If we did it it would probably be for a year.”

“I think once you take a very dramatic public health care matter like that it’s hard to reverse and I don’t think we would reverse until everyone is vaccinated and then heading into winter you wouldn’t want to open flights before Christmas,” he claimed.

“People who may like to take a summer holiday in August, people who would like to see their relatives this Christmas that they didn’t see last Christmas, that would probably be off the agenda.”

Varadkar told viewers that if the country were to follow the New Zealand model then incoming passenger numbers would fall to “about 500 or 600 people” per day.

“So that would mean that some travel that we deem essential would not be permitted,” he explained.

“People going to London for an interview, people who are travelling for education, people who want to see a dying relative, we wouldn’t be able to guarantee that that travel is possible.”

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