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Ireland reintroduces mandatory hotel quarantine

Ireland reintroduces mandatory hotel quarantine

All arrivals will need to complete a pre-departure Covid-19 test from Sunday

The Dáil (lower house of the Irish parliament) overwhelmingly passed last night the Health Amendment Bill, clearing the way for reintroduction of Mandatory Hotel Quarantine, public broadcaster RTÉ reported. The bill which includes urgent measures targeting the spread of the predominant Delta variant and the danger posed by the new Omicron strain, expects later today a final approval in the Seanad (upper house).

Meanwhile preparations for hotel quarantine are in full swing, including procurement for food and accommodation. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly who lobbied for a return of the system of obligatory isolation lauded the broad parliamentarian support for the measures, describing them as "justified" and "limited in scope and time".

Upsurge or high plateau?

Ireland reported its first Omicron case on 1 December. On the same day, 5,471 cases of COVID-19 were registered, with 579 hospitalisations and 122 Covid patients treated in ICU. Of a total of 5,707 deaths related to COVID-19 during the pandemic, 55 fatalities were newly notified in the past week. In terms of mortality rate, Ireland has the 5th lowest among the 27 EU member states and the UK.

Minister Donnelly argued that if the "relatively small number of people" who are still unvaccinated chose to get the jab in the next two weeks, Covid-19 hospital numbers would be halved and ICU Covid numbers would decrease by more than that.

Meanwhile, NPHET is considering a spate of other containment measures, including possible limits on household visits.

Guidance for children

At a key meeting on 30 November, NPHET informed the government that Covid numbers were stabilising but still remain high, especially in 9, 10 and 11-year-olds. This led to a recommendation for parents to reduce indoor socialisation of their children under 12 over the next two weeks. Mask wearing was also recommended for over 9s on public transport, in retail and other indoor public settings, as well as for third graders and above in primary school.

International travel

As of Sunday, 5 December, arrivals into Ireland by air or sea will be required to complete a pre-departure Covid-19 test. A negative antigen test result obtained within 48 hours of arrival would suffice for those vaccinated or recovered, while the unvaccinated need to prove immunity with a PCR test valid for 72 hours. Children aged 11 and under are exempt.

Protesting the restrictions

The public has reacted largely peacefully to previous pandemic restrictions imposed by the government. Last week, however, thousands of people gathered in Dublin to protest against the Covid-19 curbs and vaccine passports. Speakers at the rally accused the government of corruption and of attempting to control people’s lives, saying that the anti-Covid measures are worse than the actual disease.

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