Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says the spread of variants is being closely monitored
Passengers from more countries are set to face mandatory hotel quarantine, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said.
Speaking at a briefing on the new quarantining system, Mr Donnelly said he expects the current list of 33 red list countries to be expanded.
“I fully expect the number of countries will be expanded,” he said.
“We are seeing variants around the world so the public health team are keeping an eye on that and certainly I expect we will be adding to it. What we want to do right now is get the system up and running,” he added.
All arrivals from so-called ‘category two’ countries will be required to pay in advance for a two-week stay in a quarantine hotel from 4am on Friday.
Adult passengers will be charged €1,875 for 12 days while the charge for children aged over 12 will be €625.
A child aged between four and 12 will be charged €360 and infants under three years are free.
Mr Donnelly said the Government will cover the cost of passengers who are forced to stay longer than 14 days in hotels.
Last night, 26 people had booked places in quarantine hotels with six arriving in March, 15 in April and the remaining four in May.
Meanwhile, new figures released by the Department of Health showed 4,172 people from category two countries were due to fly into Ireland between February 7 and March 7.
Passenger locator form data shows 1,828 people from the United Arab Emirates said they were flying into Ireland while there were 1,465 from Brazil and 303 from South Africa.
However, from Friday, passengers from countries deemed to be high risk for Covid-19 will be transferred from planes by border management gardaí who will accompany them to get their bags from customs.
Customs officials will then escort them to transportation provided by the hotel where they are staying. An unarmed member of the Defence Forces will also accompany passengers as they are being transferred to hotels.
There will also be a team of Defence Forces personnel based at each quarantine hotel.
Mr Donnelly said he will be the “political lead” for the running of quarantine hotels but said the Defence Forces will be responsible for oversight and the daily operational issues.
“The oversight is with the Defence Forces so the end-to-end oversight to make sure it all works is with them. If there are operational issues it will be with them,” Mr Donnelly said.
The minister also said checking the overall safety and cleanliness of hotels will rest with the Defence Forces.
At the same briefing Brigadier General Brendan McGuinness said the Defence Forces were “mandated” to engage with passengers and hotels to ensure legislation underpinning quarantining is adhered to by those involved.
“On a day-to-day basis we are certainly happy to engage and make sure that all of the stakeholders that feed into this scheme carry out their tasks,” he said.
Separately, Department of Justice deputy secretary general Oonagh Buckley said there have been around 1,000 Garda checks of passengers who were required to quarantine at home after international travel.
Ms Buckley said gardaí call to the homes of people who do not engage with follow-up calls on passenger locator forms while there are also a small number of spot checks.
The Tifco Hotel Group had picked four venues for the first phase of mandatory quarantining but there will also be surge capacity in their other hotels.
The Crown Plaza and Holiday Inn Express near Dublin Airport along with Clontarf Castle Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel in Dublin city centre are earmarked for the quarantine system.
The contract with the Tifco Group is “based on the standard terms and conditions for State services contracts, amended to reflect the Health Act”, a Department of Health spokesperson said.
“While it is intended to be cost neutral, certain fixed costs will apply as the hotel operator is expected to provide hotel facilities irrespective of whether passengers arrive for mandatory quarantine.”