Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has ruled out mandatory quarantine for people arriving into Ireland, saying it “turned out to be a bit of a disaster” in Australia.
There have been increased calls for mandatory quarantine rules for people arriving from countries such as the US that have high numbers of coronavirus cases.
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said on Monday that, from a public health perspective, mandatory quarantine would be a “desirable measure” but it was up to the Government to decide given the wider implications.
Mr Varadkar said the Department of Health and Government have insisted mandatory quarantine would not be practical.
“It’s a high possibility this pandemic will go on for years until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment, and it’s just not practical to cut ourselves off to international travel for that long – whether it’s business, leisure, essential workers, people visiting friends and relatives, people coming home,” he told Newstalk FM.
“The objective was to flatten the curve, suppress the virus, it was never to eliminate the virus. New Zealand thought they’d done that and they haven’t – they now have new cases every day.
“Australia tried mandatory quarantine and it turned out to be a bit of a disaster. The centres, the hotels in which they quarantine people became clusters for infection and now Melbourne is in a second lockdown.”
Mr Varadkar said the Government intends on publishing a ‘green list’ of countries where it safe to travel to and from without having to quarantine next week.
“What we’re going to do when it comes to travelling to countries that aren’t on the green list or a list, is (look at) tighter controls – that could mean putting the passenger locator form online and it also means potentially looking at testing,” he added.
“People will say testing is inferior to mandatory quarantine, but if we know mandatory quarantine can’t be done then maybe it’s better to do something like that than nothing at all.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that tourists should be told “don’t come this season” and that anyone arriving in the country should face mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The island of Ireland cannot be left exposed and it was not enough to accept “on a wing and prayer” that people were self-quarantining, she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sarah McInerney.