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‘All arrivals should face 14-day mandatory quarantine’ – Sinn Féin leader McDonald

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Deputy McDonald said all arrivals should face a mandatory quarantine. Photo: Justin Farrelly.

Deputy McDonald said all arrivals should face a mandatory quarantine. Photo: Justin Farrelly.

Deputy McDonald said all arrivals should face a mandatory quarantine. Photo: Justin Farrelly.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said anyone arriving into Ireland should face a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Ms McDonald said nothing will act as a more effective pushback on travel that isn’t essential than a mandatory quarantine for 14 days,” the Sinn Féin leader said.

Deputy McDonald said it is “insufficient” if the government only quarantines people who arrive without a negative test. “I’m very surprised at this stage that they don’t realise this, especially with Nphet and other public health experts saying this. We have to grasp this nettle now,” she said while speaking on Morning Ireland.

Ms McDonald said it was “absolutely proportionate” given the epidemiological scenario that people coming onto the island are tested pre and post arrival, and that the quarantine “isn’t hit and miss.”

It is expected that cabinet will move tomorrow to bring in mandatory quarantine for arrivals without a negative test, but the Sinn Féin leader insists this does not go far enough.

“Nobody should be coming onto the island of Ireland unless essential and when they come onto the island they should have a negative PCR test. If they don’t have a negative test, they should be sent back from whence they came. We should also have a second mandatory test after five days of being on the island,” Ms McDonald told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

This comes as DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, speaking on the same programme, said it is “not tenable” to close air and ferry routes between mainland UK and Northern Ireland.

Deputy McDonald said it is “belatedly” time for the government in Dublin to use its “influence” to ensure that arrivals into Northern Ireland are subject to the same protocols as those in the south.

“The Taoiseach needs to go beyond making a couple of phone calls and it has to be the decided objective of all of us... to adopt the stringent measures and that they will apply irrespective of where you land on the island.

“If there is a reservoir of the virus on this island, it places all of us in danger. The real issue we are facing now is travel onto the island. To keep people safe on this island, you have to adopt an all-island approach,” the Sinn Féin leader said.

Deputy McDonald said the memo of understanding between north and south health departments has only been “minimally applied” and that there was “no ambition demonstrated, particularly from the government in Dublin” to press ahead with it.

Mr Donaldson said there was likely no appetite to further restrict movement across the border, due to the amount of people that move back and forward seamlessly for work each day.

“I don’t think the numbers are really that high,” Mr Donaldson said, adding that the idea to close off Northern Ireland to flights and ferries from the UK “just isn’t tenable”.

“We are linked into the UK commonly - for instance I have to travel to the UK regularly to attend the parliament. You’d have to shut down the entire public sector and infrastructure between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to completely prevent travel.

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Mr Donaldson said the ferries from the UK and air links from the UK’s major cities are vital to the North’s economy.

“People still need to make these essential journeys and we are not in a position to ban essential travel within the United Kingdom, just like the Irish government would not want to ban essential travel within Ireland.

“We have already said people should not journey across the Irish Sea if it is non essential,” he pointed out.

Speaking on the issue of a Sunday Times poll that showed 50.7pc in favour of a border poll in the north in the next five year, the MP said: “We believe that there isn’t a consensus in Northern Ireland.”

“If you take the margin of error for the poll, it may well be that there may not even be a majority in that poll supporting the idea of a referendum on a border poll.

"When you break it down into the various sectors, some of the claims that a majority favour a border poll is only when you take out the people who don’t know.

“We believe that there isn’t a consensus in Northern Ireland for a border poll and when you consider that we are in the middle of a pandemic, that our economy is under pressure, we have many priorities within the Northern Ireland Executive that primarily are about saving lives and saving jobs. I don’t think anyone is going to push forward a border poll in the midst of this kind of situation,” Mr Donaldson said.

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