A CORK TD has called for further restrictions on international travel amid increasing pressure on the Government to introduce mandatory quarantine.
In a letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly last week, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan set out advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on the need for the introduction of additional restrictions on international travel.
In the letter, the CMO said that a pre-test alone “is not a sufficiently robust system for the prevention of disease importation” and that even the best-performing tests can miss up to 40% of cases.”
Nphet noted that many other EU countries have adopted stricter policies to meet the risk of new variants of Covid-19 and expressed concern about the risk associated with international travel.
Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould said that the contents of the letter “undermines the Government’s approach”.
“Sinn Féin have been very critical of the hands-off approach that the Government has taken to international arrivals," he said.
"We have consistently called for stricter checks and restrictions at our ports of entry to help prevent more cases of Covid-19 being imported."
Mr Gould acknowledged the new requirement for a pre-departure test, but said that it alone “is not enough” and called for “the voluntary and unenforced quarantine procedure to be replaced with a mandatory system”.
However, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said that introducing mandatory quarantine for those travelling into Ireland would be “much more difficult to do than the benefit that it would derive”.
“We have changed the conditions around international really quite significantly in the last number of weeks,” Mr Coveney said on RTÉ.
“You cannot arrive in Ireland now, either by air or by sea, without having a negative PCR test in the previous 72 hours and, if you do, you will be talking to the guards and you can be fined up to €2,500. So it is now in Irish law that, to arrive in Ireland, you have to have a negative PCR test.”
He said that there has been strong compliance with the PCR test since it was introduced.
Mr Coveney also said that the Government was considering the possibility of introducing mandatory quarantine for those who arrive in Ireland without a valid PCR test.
In addition, he said the Government is looking at new visa requirements from certain countries.
“We’re looking at the viability now of whether we can introduce new visa requirements from South Africa, from Brazil and potentially some other parts of the world as well.
“International travel is under very active consideration,” he added.