Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Health
723. To ask the Minister for Health if a quarantine will be placed on all visitors from outside Ireland during the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business following on from Covid-19; if so, if this will include the common travel area with the UK in view of the large number of cases there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6109/20]
NPHET has considered issues in relation to overseas travel, informed by World Health Organisation and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control guidance, approaches and learning from other countries, and reports of importation of cases in a number of countries following relaxation of restrictions.
As the number of indigenous cases here declines and Ireland eases some restrictions, the relative importance of the risk of importation of cases from overseas increases. The impact of any imported cases on disease spread would be all the greater in the context of easing of domestic restrictions and the resultant increased movement and contact between people. In addition, a significant increase in the number of cases in Ireland as a result of importation could have an impact on public compliance with public health guidance and restrictions. Ultimately, the suppression of community transmission which has been achieved and which should allow for greater resumption of social and economic life in Ireland could be endangered.
To date, Ireland has introduced a range of travel related measures including issuing advice against non-essential international travel on 13th March. As of 24th April, passengers arriving into Ireland from overseas are expected to complete the Public Health Passenger Locator Form and to self-isolate for 14 days. Self-isolation means staying indoors and avoiding contact with other people and is a more stringent measure than the stay at home requirements that apply to the wider public.
Intensive work is underway by my Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments and the Attorney General’s Office, to finalise regulations to come into effect in the coming days that will make it mandatory for passengers arriving to the State from overseas to present a completed Public Health Passenger Locator Form.
My Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments, is also developing proposals to strengthen the 14 days self-isolation arrangements for travellers from overseas. These proposals will include possible enforcement measures. The issue of imposing mandatory quarantine for a 14 day period, to be considered as the situation evolves, was mentioned in the Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business.
It is intended that self-isolation arrangements will continue to apply to passengers arriving from overseas, irrespective of the country from which they are travelling. Passengers transiting to another jurisdiction and who will not be residing in the State, including transiting to Northern Ireland, will be exempt.
The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:
1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:
a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,
b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,
c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,
d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,
e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.
2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.
3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.
4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.
As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.