Government to consider tighter curbs on travel from South Africa, South America

The Government is set to consider tighter restrictions on international travel as the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has promised that a new system for mandatory hotel quarantine will be in place “within weeks”.

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is expected to seek Government approval on Tuesday to extend an existing ban on visa-free travel from South Africa and most South American countries due to the threat posed by Covid-19 variants.

The measures had been due to expire on March 5th. It is understood Ms McEntee will also seek the Cabinet’s permission to further extend the ban to other non-EEA countries in future although the specific locations have not yet been agreed.

New legislation to enforce mandatory State quarantine in hotels for passengers from high-risk countries passed all stages in the Oireachtas on Monday and will now go to the President for signature.

The most complicated aspects of the system centre around the private security staff to be used by the hotels to police the quarantine, arrangements around physical exercise and food delivery to rooms, and the frequency of testing for hotel and other staff managing the system of quarantine.

It is understood that gardaí will be called to hotels if those staying do not comply with the rules or leave the facility before they are allowed to.

Senior garda management have informed the Government that the force should not be on site at the facilities and should not have a role in escorting passengers from planes and ports to the hotels.

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