Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney insisted further consultation with the EU was needed before more countries could be added
THE State’s hotel quarantine list for arrivals from overseas nations is to be extended – but it will not include further EU countries or the US.
Despite public health advice, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has insisted passengers from the US or EU countries should not be required to pay for hotel quarantining on arrival in Ireland.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had proposed adding 43 more countries to the quarantine list, including France, Germany and Italy. He is still anxious to have these countries added to the list.
Acting chief medical officer Ronan Glynn also supported the addition of EU countries to the list over increasing fears about new variants and high-levels of Covid transmission in these nations.
Despite the imminent threat to Ireland’s Covid strategy, Mr Coveney said further consultation and discussion with the EU was needed before more countries could be added.
A Fine Gael minister said Mr Coveney was concerned about the impact it would have on Irish citizens working and studying abroad.
There are also concerns in Fine Gael about forcing senior managers from big US firms to quarantine on arrival.
Mr Donnelly added 27 new countries to the hotel quarantining list and removed Mauritius.
However, Austria remains the only EU country listed, despite 16 other EU nations being recommended.
The countries added include: Albania, Andorra, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, San Marino, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Nigeria, Oman, Palestine, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Serbia and Somalia.
Mr Coveney was among those who resisted the introduction of hotel quarantine when it was first recommended by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) in May last year.
“Minister Coveney seems to think there is a milder variant of Covid within the EU which is clearly not the case,” a department source said.
“Minister Donnelly is adamant that more countries need to be added and there is a real and present threat from new variants and he wants these countries added to the list as soon as possible to protect people.”
The source said Mr Donnelly has the power to add countries to the quarantine list on the advice of the Expert Travel Group and may do so in the coming days.
At a meeting between Mr Coveney and Mr Donnelly, a source said, it was suggested gardaí could do more checks on people quarantining at home who have arrived from EU countries.
Attorney General Paul Gallagher has also written to Mr Donnelly to highlight legal concerns with charging EU citizens for hotel quarantining.
Yesterday, Mr Coveney raised the question of Irish people coming home and if we should be putting them into a hotel and charging them.
Public health experts in the Department of Health have compiled a list of 43 countries which have variants of concern, where Covid-19 cases are greater than 500 per 100,000 or where the infection rate is two-and-a-half times that of Ireland. Germany and the US are included due to the rise of variants of the disease.
The Travel Expert Advisory Group has identified three criteria for inclusion on the list, affecting 17 EU states.
The first rule is “variants of concern”, where the virus has a high rate of transmission, severity and an ability to escape immune response. Austria is already on the quarantine list, with Italy, France and Germany now recommended. Outside of the EU, the US also falls under this category.
The second criteria concerns Covid-19 cases greater than 500 per 100,000. France, Italy and Austria are again included under this criteria. Likewise, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden.
The third category is where infection rates are two-and-a-half times that of Ireland, meaning Bulgaria, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Slovenia are included.
The EU countries not on the list are Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Finland, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania and Spain.
The UK is also not on the list.
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