The Irish government has announced several new rules for overseas travellers arriving to Ireland in a bid to reduce non-essential travel into and out of the country, including from and to Northern Ireland, and slow the spread of COVID-19.
As reported by The Irish Times, the new rules for overseas travellers arriving to Ireland include criminal sanctions and compulsory quarantine for incoming travellers who fail to produce a negative PCR test.
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The new rules also include a temporary suspension of holiday visas for residents of South Africa and South America until March 5, and anyone who arrives to Ireland from South Africa or Brazil will be required to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the quarantine locations will likely be hotels situated close to airports.
Transport minister Eamon Ryan said that travellers from the UK and elsewhere who arrive to the Republic of Ireland via Northern Ireland will be subject to the same legislation, sanctions and rules as individuals who arrive into the Republic directly, and that negotiations are ongoing with authorities in Northern Ireland for sharing data and protocols, including shared passenger locator forms.
The government has also announced new fines for individuals who travel further than five kilometres from their homes for no good reason. The current fine is €100, however, it will rise to €500 for individuals who flagrantly breach the rule. Varadkar said that it is innately unfair that an individual who travels one kilometre beyond the five kilometre limit would be fined a similar amount to an individual who travels abroad for a holiday.
Ryan added that new laws will be explored to make Northern Irish residents subject to similar fines as Republic of Ireland residents.
It has been accepted that several of the new measures will require primary legislation which could take a number of weeks to prepare.
Varadkar also noted that international travel is unlikely to reopen until sometime in the future, and certainly not for the summer, and said that when COVID-19 case numbers decrease, a focus would be put on international travel to ensure that case numbers do not rise again.
Extension Of Level Five Restrictions
The announcement of the above travel rules accompanied an announcement that level five COVID-19-related restrictions have been extended until March 5.
However, Varadkar said that he cannot yet give an estimated date for when the hospitality sector will reopen.
The government said that there could still be between 800 and 1,300 people in hospitals due to COVID-19 at the end of February, and up to 100 patients in intensive care units, and Taoiseach Micheál Martin stated that hospital admissions and ICU cases will remain the real pressure points for at least another month. Martin said, "That is why we have to keep pressure up on the virus and reduce it."
The taoiseach added, "The message to people for the next six weeks is very simple: stay at home. Do not travel. Do not make any journeys outside of your five kilometres unless you absolutely have to. Hold firm and stick to the basics."
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