The Government is introducing mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals, including Irish citizens, from 20 high-risk countries, including Austria, Brazil, South Africa and the UAE.
he regime, which will confine people in hotels for up to 14 days, will not be operational until next month at the earliest but the list of so-called schedule two countries could be expanded once it is. Anyone who flouts mandatory quarantine could face fines of up to €4,000 and/or one month in prison.
On Tuesday, the Cabinet was told that hotel quarantine will not operate on a fixed capacity basis and the scale of it could be substantial. Ministers were told that if 500 or 600 people are arriving every day from high-risk countries, then several thousand hotel rooms will be needed.
The finer detail of how hotel quarantine will work is still to be worked out, including possible exemptions, but these will be extremely limited.
An appeals mechanism will be set up for those who need to leave quarantine for medical or humanitarian reasons.
Truck drivers, airline staff, gardaí, Defence Force members, TDs, senators and MEPs will be exempt, as will someone travelling for urgent medical reasons.
In the coming weeks, hotels will be asked to tender for the provision of quarantine services which will include a room, meals, laundry and transport from the airport to the hotel.
It is likely that before they travel, they will have to pre-book their hotel quarantine stay at a cost of around €2,000 per adult and €500 per child.
It is possible airlines won’t allow them to board a flight unless they have proof of a booking. Arrangements will have to be made for those who arrive in the State without a booking. Arrivals from non-schedule two countries who don’t have a valid negative PCR will also be required to enter hotel quarantine and undergo testing.
These people will be met on arrival by border officials who will check their travel documents and negative PCR test.
Public health officials will also be on site to obtain details for passenger locator forms. Even if someone is going into quarantine, they will have to fill out the PLF with the address they intend staying at after quarantine ends.
After these have been processed, they will be taken to board a bus or other transport provided by the hotel where they will be staying.
On arrival at the hotel, they will be assigned to a room where they will be expected to remain for up to 14 days.
There will be a public health team as well as State officials for administrative purposes. The hotel will be looking after those in quarantine, including phoning their room once or twice a day to check if they need anything and to ensure they haven’t become unwell.
They will be given three meals a day to be eaten in their room. The food will vary depending on the hotels but they should be able to make allowances for dietary requirements. Hotels will provide a laundry service and other limited services provided no social interaction is required. No one will come into the person’s room to clean it. Those in quarantine will have to leave rubbish outside their door.
Their room will have basics like WiFi, phone and television, but they won’t be able to pop down to the gym, spa or swimming pool.
Services may depend on the hotel. Some may limit the amount of alcohol you can order. No one will be able to smoke in their room, and they likely won’t be allowed out every time they want to smoke.
There will be limited exceptions to being confined to the room but the exact details are as yet unclear. Medical emergencies are an obvious one, but the person ins quarantine may be allowed outdoors on the hotel grounds for exercise.
No visitors or mixing with others in quarantine will be allowed. In Australia, allowances are made for outside deliveries or drop-offs from family or friends – but that’s unlikely except for certain situations like medication or emergencies.
Guards from private security companies will be dotted around the hotels. There will be no permanent Garda presence but it is envisaged guards will be able to call to hotels to check up on residents.
If someone tries to leave before the end of the 14-day period, it will be considered an offence.
Security will ask the person not to but if they persist, gardaí will be called. They will be returned to the hotel. The
Defence Forces will be on hand for logistical support but will not enforce quarantine.
Those quarantined will be tested for Covid-19 on the fifth and tenth day of their stay. There may be provision for someone who tests negative after 10 days to leave quarantine.