Health Minister Stephen Donnelly revealed that over 10,000 passengers arrived in Ireland through Dublin Airport last week. Speaking in the Dáil, Donnelly said between 1,000 and 3,500 people still arrive in the country EVERY DAY.
Donnelly made the announcement during a debate of the Government’s legislation on mandatory hotel quarantine for international arrivals. The new Bill enforces the hotel quarantine required of people arriving from the 20 countries currently on Ireland’s red list.
Minister Donnelly told the Dáil that Ireland’s travel volumes “are significantly depressed” when compared to the same period last year. He added that the proposals in the Bill “may be regarded by some as harsh, and may be regarded by others as insufficient”.
Donnelly notes that while the UK has introduced mandatory hotel quarantine, very few countries in Europe have introduced such a regime. However, the Health Minister said that the Government believes “the risk of importing variants, and their potential impact on our vaccination programme, means that we must act”.
“We believe this Bill strikes a fair and proportionate balance between the protection of public health, and the common good in an unprecedented emergency which we face on the one hand, and the limited restriction of individual rights on the other hand,” Donnelly said.
The minister added that there were “serious concerns” that the vaccines developed until now “may not be as effective against new variants of COVID-19”. Donnelly said he had spoken last week with his New Zealand counterpart, David Clark, to discuss how the new measures could be implemented.
“We will undoubtedly face operational challenges, just as they did,” said Donnelly. “We may not get everything exactly right from the very start. So, where we need to learn and adapt to the arrangements, this will be done”.
The move has received criticism, including Sinn Fein health spokesman David Cullinane. Cullinane criticised the Government over the length of time it had taken to introduce the measures. He said it has been “nine months since NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) recommended that discretionary elements of travel should end, and it is disappointing that nine months later, the solutions in relation to checks and controls at airports are still not put in place”. Cullinane also said that the measures did not go far enough, with Sinn Fein advocating for mandatory hotel quarantine for ALL international arrivals.