Gabriel Scally: Adopting a ‘leaky’ hotel quarantine system is dangerous

Vaccine certs and exemptions could create a 'dangerous and really unhelpful' system, the public health expert said
Gabriel Scally: Adopting a ‘leaky’ hotel quarantine system is dangerous

Ireland runs the risk of adopting a “leaky” hotel quarantine system with the introduction of various exemptions, according to public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally.

Dr Scally, president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine, said such a system would be “dangerous and really unhelpful”.

This week saw the Government sign off on a number of exemptions from the system, including for those who are fully vaccinated and elite athletes. An exemption was also made for families travelling home with a newborn baby.

Dr Scally told Newstalk radio that exemptions should be limited in order to stop new variants entering the country.

“From my point of view, a leaky quarantine system in whatever way, whether it’s eligibility, vaccination certificates, special exemptions — a leaky quarantine system is really dangerous and really unhelpful,” he said.

“We should learn from the experience of, you know, countries like Taiwan or Singapore or New Zealand or Australia — and they do it really tightly, really well.”

Vaccine exemptions

On Saturday, new regulations came into force, exempting those with proof of full vaccination with Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Janssen — along with a negative PCR test — from the system.

Those who are fully vaccinated will still be required to quarantine at home following arrival into the State.

The vaccination exemption applies only to EMA-approved vaccines, meaning those who have received Covid-19 vaccines developed in Russia or China must still quarantine in a hotel.

The move to introduce exemptions to the system comes after the Government faced sustained criticism of its quarantine system, including from the European Commission.

On Friday, the Commission said it believed Ireland could pursue “less restrictive measures” than its mandatory hotel quarantine regime to protect public health.

It also sought clarifications as to why some fellow EU member states were subject to the rules.

Ireland is the only one the EU's 27 countries that requires arrivals from certain countries to pay almost €2,000 each to quarantine for up to 14 days in a secure hotel.

During the week, Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg were added to the State's list of designated states that initially also included Austria.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he “flat out disagreed” with the Commission if it was telling Ireland it could not put such measures in place for countries that have been identified as having Covid-19 variants of concern.

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