Explainer: 26 bookings made so far today for mandatory hotel quarantine. Here’s what you need to know

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As of 7 March, 4,172 people have flown in from Category 2 high risk countries.

26 BOOKINGS HAVE already been made today through the online site for mandatory hotel quarantine. 

Six of those are for check-in in March, 15 are for April, and five bookings are for May.

The portal, which is available to access here went live today.

There has been a lot of talk about mandatory hotel quarantine in recent weeks, with legislation signed into law two weeks ago. 

Here’s what you need to know about how it works. 

Who is subject to mandatory hotel quarantine when they arrive in Ireland?

All passengers arriving into Ireland from designated States after 4am this Friday 26 March are now required to pre-book accommodation in a designated quarantine facility, and to pre-pay for their stay.

There are currently 33 countries on the government’s list of ‘high-risk’ Category 2 countries.

A total of 13 of these countries/territories were added on 26 February by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. These are: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The 20 other countries/states which were already on the list are: Angola, Austria, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of South Africa, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Anyone arriving into the country without a negative PCR test with them is also subject to mandatory quarantine.

Will more countries be added to the list? 

Donnelly told reporters today that he fully expects that more countries will be added to the list. 

“We are seeing more variants around the world so the public health experts are keeping an eye on that,” he said

How many people have flown in from Category 2 high risk countries in the past few weeks?

The latest figures available to the Department of Health as of 7 March is that 4,172 people have flown in from Category 2 high risk countries.

The Department of Justice said today that around 1,000 home checks had been made on passengers arriving from these countries, meaning around one in four passengers are being followed up on by spot checks.

How much does it cost?

The cost for an incoming passenger coming from one of the 33 designated states is €1,875 for 12 nights. Children over 12 will cost €625, while a child between 4-12 will cost €360. There is no charge for infants.

Where will passengers be taken when they arrive in Ireland?

The first facility that will be available to receive arriving travellers is the Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport Hotel in Santry.

The Tifco Hotel Group has been appointed as the service provider to assist the State in delivering mandatory hotel quarantine.

They have a number of hotels, and under the contract, the number of hotels used for mandatory quarantine can be scaled up.

So what happens once someone lands on a plane or arrives into Ireland at one of our ports?

When the plane arrives on the tarmac, an announcement is made on the aircraft that anyone that has to go to mandatory quarantine should stay on the plane while the rest of the passengers disembark.

The passenger will be brought to the Border Management Unit, where their papers will be inspected. They will then be brought to Passport Control, before being brought to pick up their luggage. They will be kept away from other passengers at the airport or port.

They will then go through Customs before being escorted by members of the Defence Forces onto a bus and taken to the hotel.

What happens if a person tests positive while staying in the hotel?

If a person tests positive in quarantine, the period could be extended for 10 days.

They would need to be five days free from symptoms and may need a PCR test at the end of that period before they will be allowed to leave.

Who covers the cost if they need to stay longer? 

The State will cover the costs if this occurs. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said someone who has already booked in to stay would have already paid a considerable amount of money. If they somehow test positive, they would have to go through a whole new cycle, he said.

The minister said he did not think it would be fair to saddle someone with another bill worth thousands of Euro.

Will there be medical staff at the hotels?

There will be clinical staff in each hotel, and a doctor available to the hotel 24/7.

People will be surveyed and assessed on arrival in terms of their mental health. When they are in quarantine they will be contacted at least once daily and will be asked to fill out a questionnaire every three days to check their mental health.

Do they have to stay in their room the whole time?

People in quarantine must stay in their room except for exercise, which is allowed three times daily.

Who is exempted from hotel quarantine?

Some people that have arrived from the designated countries, or perhaps don’t have a negative PCR test upon arrival may be exempted from quarantine for what the minister states are “time-sensitive medical reasons”.

He told reporters today that this would really be in cases that are unavoidable and imperative, with the medical reason needing to be certified by a doctor. 

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What role is the Defence Forces playing?

The Defence Forces is there to support various agencies of Government, ensure the system runs smoothly between public and private operators at work, and to ensure the passenger pathway is safe and secure.

There will be small teams from the Defence Forces placed at all mandatory hotel locations, as well as airports and ports.

The members will not be armed.

Can someone try and circumvent the system to avoid mandatory quarantine?

Customs staff will work to detect people who may try to bypass the system.

A senior Department of Justice official said they are expecting the majority of people to present themselves. Where that is not the case, say if someone flies from one of the countries, to the UK or another country in the EU, before flying onto Ireland, there are means of detecting where a person originated from at the start of their journey.

EU flight data sharing is the norm, reporters were told today, and details are also on flight manifests. Passengers will also be interviewed by immigration officers upon arrival into Ireland, who will be relied upon to “ask the right questions”.

What happens if someone tries to leave the hotel before they are supposed to?

A member of the hotel will inform the person that if they leave they will be in breach of the legislation. If they leave, the gardaí will be called and the matter will be an operational one for the gardaí to handle. A file could be made to the DPP and dealt with by the courts, but officials stated today that it would be the intention that they are returned to the hotel to complete their mandated quarantine.

Is there an appeals process?

Yes, there will be an appeals system operating seven days a week, 24-hours a day for people who feel they should not be in quarantine.

What are the details of the contract – will the State be guaranteeing occupancy to the hotel operator?

The Department of Health said the contract is based on the standard terms and conditions for State services contracts, amended to reflect the Health Act.

“The commercial arrangement and cost model, is commercially sensitive. (While it is intended to be cost neutral certain fixed costs will apply as the hotel operator is expected to provide hotel facilities irrespective of whether passengers arrive for mandatory quarantine)” the department said. 

How long will this all last for?

The legislation sets out there is a three month sunset clause in place for the system, though the minister can extend or renew it.

Who is in charge of the system?

The Department of Health has overall responsibility for the mandatory hotel quarantine programme. The Defence Forces has responsibility for day-to-day oversight and quality assurance.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly briefing the media on the mandatory quarantine measures today.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly briefing the media on the mandatory quarantine measures today.

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