Government row erupts over plans to expand mandatory quarantine

Government row erupts over plans to expand mandatory quarantine

Plans to expand mandatory hotel quarantine to 43 additional countries, including the United States, Germany and France, have sparked a major row within Government.

The Attorney General wrote to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to express concerns about the plans.

Sources told The Irish Times that a number of Ministers and the European Union are “furious” over the plans.

A source, with knowledge of the Attorney General's letter, said it was “very clear” in outlining concerns that health officials had not followed the correct procedure.

It was also claimed that the legislation the Oireachtas passed on quarantine when formulating their advice was not followed.

Figures in Government are concerned the plans have “over-reached” and “misinterpreted the law we passed”.

Anger

There is also understood to be considerable anger in the Department of Foreign Affairs over the proposal.

The recommendation has raised a number of issues including whether or not there is enough space in the existing hotels, how citizens who are stranded and cannot afford quarantine would be helped and what would happen to essential workers.

Others have claimed the EU was not properly consulted, adding the plans could represent a “major breach” of European citizens’ rights to travel freely.

There are also fears that the plans could compromise the Common Travel Area, as the Isle of Man was included in the list of potential additions to the list of high-risk countries.

Government sources say the plans were being pushed forward by health officials without asking for feedback or advice.

However, sources in the Department of Health have denied this, saying the consultation process is happening now as would normally be the case after recommendations are made.

“Big political risk.”

There has been some suggestion that Mr Donnelly could sign off on the plans without the full agreement of Cabinet colleagues, however, this has been described as a “big political risk”.

Government sources believe the new arrangements could be struck down in the courts if he went down this route.

Department of Health officials insist there are provisions in the existing legislation to add countries for reasons other than concerning variants.

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