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Experts demand tighter quarantine as UK variants of Covid are on the rise


Members of the Defence Forces meet passengers arriving at Dublin Airport. Picture by Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Members of the Defence Forces meet passengers arriving at Dublin Airport. Picture by Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Members of the Defence Forces meet passengers arriving at Dublin Airport. Picture by Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The G overnment’s decision to exempt vaccinated people from mandatory hotel quarantine has come under continued criticism from public health experts as outbreaks of new variants of the virus increase. 

Professor Gabriel Scally, a public health expert, said the Government should be tightening quarantine rather than exempting people from the system.

“I don’t think you can have a half quarantine system. You do it properly or don’t do it at all,” he said.

Another public health expert, Professor Ivan Perry, was reported yesterday as saying England and Scotland should be added to mandatory hotel quarantine list.

Northern Ireland’s mandatory hotel quarantine came into effect yesterday, as latest figures show an increase in Covid-19 variants in the UK. Cases of the South African variant doubled in a month and 77 cases of a new Indian variant were identified.

Separately, testifying at a series of High Court challenges overmandatory hotel quarantine, Dr Darina O’Flanagan, who is on the National Public Heath Emergency Team, highlighted reduced efficacy of some vaccines in protecting against new variants.

The Government came under sustained criticism last week for including five EU countries on its red list along with the US and Canada. The EU Commission has asked the Government to clarify how the five countries were included and has stated EU citizens should be subjected to less restrictive quarantine measures.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher this weekend said  he has asked the Government to publish the criteria on which countries are selected so that countries will have a “benchmark”.

“The idea is to slow the variants. You’re not going to eliminate the risk, but you just reduce the risk by identifying countries that have a high incidence of this variant, and that’s really all we can do,” he said in a defence of the system.

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The Sunday Independent conducted an anonymous ‘straw poll’ of US-based businesses through the Irish America Business Chamber and Network.

The poll showed most companies that responded opposed mandatory hotel quarantine for US citizens. More than 96pc of the 27 respondents said vaccinated people should be exempted.

None of the companies had lobbied the Irish Government on the issue.

One company said that mandatory hotel quarantine was a “substantial deterrent to any business or personal travel to Ireland”.

Another said: “I will just do business with other countries and omit Ireland from the list.” 

One other said: “A negative test result prior to travelling is enough of a safety precaution”

More than half of the companies that responded sent representatives to Ireland once or twice a year.

One US-based Irish chief executive, who supports mandatory quarantine, said the biggest issue has been the lack of communication.

“The Government has continuously said ‘We are listening to the science’, yet fail to communicate what the science says to the general population. As a company that deals with enormous amounts of data and business intelligence platforms, it’s quite frustrating,” he said.

The booking portal for mandatory hotel quarantine reopened yesterday after being closed due to capacity issues.

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