Dáil debates mandatory hotel quarantine, Donnelly expects more Omicron cases

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said almost 600 cases of Covid-19 were detected through the mandatory hotel quarantine system when it was last operational.
Dáil debates mandatory hotel quarantine, Donnelly expects more Omicron cases

Muireann Duffy

The return of the mandatory hotel quarantine system has been debated in the Dáil on Thursday, with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly predicting that travel restrictions may not be enough to ward off the spread of Covid-19.

According to The Irish Times, Mr Donnelly said he expects to see more cases of the Omicron variant detected in Ireland, after the first such case was confirmed by the Department of Health on Wednesday.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Donnelly added that mandatory hotel quarantine will be needed for "a limited time".

The Minister explained: "We know that the system of hotel mandatory quarantine previously in place worked." He added that of 17,846 tests carried out as part of the initiative, 593 people tested positive during their isolation period.

"This data of course does not take account of cases which were avoided in the community as a result of hotel quarantine, or of the travellers who delayed travel to Ireland as a result of the imposition of quarantine," Mr Donnelly said.

He added the Government have moved to reintroduce the legislation permitting mandatory hotel quarantine in the event it would be "deemed necessary in response to the threat posed by the Omicron variant".

Opposition

Independent TD Catherine Connolly was in disagreement with Mr Donnelly, stating the system "undoubtedly amounts to a form of State detention".

While Labour supported the Bill, Dublin Fingal TD Duncan Smith said there were concerns whether it could be properly applied while the virus is "running absolutely rampant".

Sinn Féin's health spokesperson, Waterford TD David Cullinane added that decisions made regarding restrictions need to have "proper oversight and accountability and transparency".

Although he agreed that additional measures are needed to reduce transmission in the country, he said they have to "be careful and balance out the measures which we bring in and the impact that it would have on citizens".

Caution

Elsehwhere, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the country will need to be cautious until the impact of the Omicron variant is known.

Following discussions with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, Mr Martin said more information on the latest variant of concern will be known in mid-December when a full evaluation of the strain's characteristics will be complete.

Despite the concerns, Mr Martin said the overall outlook in Ireland has improved as case numbers stabilise, albeit at a high level.

He added the Government will later consider recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), which is meeting today, and decide whether additional measures are needed over the coming weeks.

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