Tanaiste rules out mandatory quarantine for people travelling to Ireland

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By Aine McMahon PA

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has ruled out mandatory quarantine for people arriving into Ireland, saying it "turned out to be a bit of a disaster" in Australia.

There have been increased calls for mandatory quarantine rules for people arriving from countries such as the US that have high numbers of coronavirus cases.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said on Monday that, from a public health perspective, mandatory quarantine would be a "desirable measure" but it was up to the Government to decide given the wider implications.

Mr Varadkar said the Department of Health and Government have insisted mandatory quarantine would not be practical.

"It's a high possibility this pandemic will go on for years until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment, and it's just not practical to cut ourselves off to international travel for that long - whether it's business, leisure, essential workers, people visiting friends and relatives, people coming home," he told Newstalk FM.

"The objective was to flatten the curve, suppress the virus, it was never to eliminate the virus. New Zealand thought they'd done that and they haven't - they now have new cases every day.

"Australia tried mandatory quarantine and it turned out to be a bit of a disaster. The centres, the hotels in which they quarantine people became clusters for infection and now Melbourne is in a second lockdown."

Mr Varadkar said the Government intends to publish a "green list" of countries where it safe to travel to and from without having to quarantine next week.

"What we're going to do when it comes to travelling to countries that aren't on the green list or a list is (look at) tighter controls - that could mean putting the passenger locator form online and it also means potentially looking at testing," he added.

"People will say testing is inferior to mandatory quarantine, but if we know mandatory quarantine can't be done then maybe it's better to do something like that than nothing at all."

Ryanair announced on Tuesday that it is cutting its Ireland-UK schedules for the months of August and September by up to 1,000 flights.

A spokesman for the budget airline said Ireland "is now suffering unrecoverable losses" as arriving EU passengers are forced to quarantine even while the border to Northern Ireland remains open with no quarantine requirement for passengers.

"Last week, when the UK and Northern Ireland removed travel restrictions on short-haul flights to/from the European Union, Ireland became the only country in the EU with a blanket 14-day quarantine restriction on all arrivals from EU countries, most of which have lower Covid case rates than Ireland," the spokesman said.

Ryanair called on the Irish Government to remove all travel restrictions between Ireland "as a matter of urgency".

No new coronavirus-related deaths were reported in Ireland on Monday, leaving the total at 1,746, the National Public Health Emergency Team said.

As of midnight on July 12, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) had been notified of 11 confirmed new cases of Covid-19, taking the total to 25,639 confirmed cases in Ireland.

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