More than 2,000 arrivals from Brazil were among 5,500-plus passengers who entered the State from countries deemed high-risk during a 28-day period in January and February, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
he Government is to introduce mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from 20 ‘category two’ high-risk countries – including Brazil, South Africa and the UAE – in the coming weeks.
Confidential figures provided to Cabinet last week show that over a four-week period so far this year a total of 5,564 people arrived from these countries, including 2,194 from the UAE, 2,004 from Brazil, 499 from South Africa and 867 from the other 17 countries on the high-risk list. At present arrivals from these countries are required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, but legislation to be passed in the coming weeks will set up mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals, including Irish citizens, from these 20 countries.
The new figures have emerged as public health officials confirmed the first three cases of the more transmissible P1 variant in Ireland, all of which were associated with recent travel from Brazil.
There have also been three cases of the so-called South African variant identified last week in addition to the 11 previously discovered in Ireland, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory Dr Cillian de Gascun said yesterday. He said all of these were linked to travel from South Africa.
There are concerns among public health officials that these more contagious variants could also impact on the effectiveness of vaccines.
Dr de Gascun told RTÉ the P1 variant is “likely more transmissible” and could have an impact on vaccine effectiveness. He said there was not “at this stage” evidence of “on-island transmission” of either of these variants.
Meanwhile, the three Coalition party leaders and senior ministers were told on Thursday that 500,000 people will be fully vaccinated by the end of April, with up to 2.2 million receiving their first and second doses by the end of July.
Professor Brian MacCraith, chair of the vaccine task force, gave the Cabinet Covid sub-committee new indicative timelines which show that as many as 3.5m first doses will be administered by the end of July provided there is no disruption to anticipated supplies of vaccines.
Ministers now expect that 250,000 people will be given vaccine doses every week, beginning in April.
This means Health Minister Stephen Donnelly’s target of having every adult in the country being offered a vaccine by the end of September will be met, provided there are no supply issues or the impact of new variants disrupting distribution.
More detail on the vaccination timeline, including a possible target timeline for when each cohort can expect to receive their first and second dose, will be outlined by the Government this week as part of a revised Living with Covid plan.
Mr Donnelly is also expected to outline plans to increase vaccine prioritisation for those with underlying health conditions.
The revised document will also set out plans for a slow and cautious reopening of the country, but with no firm dates as the Government remains concerned about the impact of new variants on both the disease and the vaccination programme.
A senior Government source said “volatility will remain”, given the new mutations of the virus.