Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara has criticised the Government's Mandatory Hotel Quarantine strategy, which he described as "a half-baked exercise in optics" and a "flawed measure" in the context of an unchecked border with Northern Ireland and when the majority of persons arriving in the state whether by air, sea or over land are not tested for variants of Covid-19.
Deputy McNamara was reacting to the news that people entering Ireland from the United States, France, Germany and Italy will not, for now, face a mandatory period of hotel quarantine. The decision follows concerns raised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General about the planned extension of the system.
Deputy McNamara stated, "Israel, the poster boy for vaccination success, is on the list of states to be quarantined. Should the rationale for its inclusion be maintained, quarantining will be maintained indefinitely after we have completed our vaccination programme and other states have too."
He continued, "China is not on the list of Designated States for Mandatory Hotel Quarantine and was not proposed for inclusion. Our public health experts are obviously happy with the data coming out of China."
"Mandatory quarantining is a flawed measure when we have an open, unchecked border with the UK," stated Deputy McNamara. "It is a half-baked exercise in optics when we are not rapid testing the majority of people arriving into this state whether by air, sea or over land, much less carrying out genomic sequencing of positive samples which is the only way that potentially vaccine resistant mutations of the curtain can be detected. It will impose great hardship on a small group of people entering the State, including those coming for humanitarian reasons like the funeral of a parent or sibling, but have little or no impact on the overall risk of harmful variants being imported.”
“It also suggests that the only risk is that the virus will mutate abroad when the French Covid-19 Scientific Council (France’s NPHET equivalent) recently warned in The Lancet of the risk posed by ‘immunity evasion’ in every state as herd immunity approaches, whether through vaccination or contracting the virus and recovering. We have no idea what, if any, steps are being taken to deal with that risk in this state as vaccine roll-out gathers pace,” he explained.
“What percentage of detected cases are being sent for genomic sequencing here?,” asked Deputy McNamara, adding, “It’s easier to present travel as the bogeyman than get our own testing and tracing system in order.”
The Clare T.D. said the only thing stopping the adding of more EU states appears to be a “fear that the State will lose a case at the EU Court of Justice where it would be forced to argue that Germany, France and Italy either don't know what they're doing or don't have access to the same calibre of public health advice as we do."
"There seems to be less concern in Government Buildings at potentially breaching our Constitution and being brought before our own Courts. The Deliberation of one Constitutional challenge to restrictions was postponed, citing lack of judicial resources. It’s important to recall that it is the Government that resources the administration of justice and there is an onus in a democratic state to ensure it is adequately resourced to vindicate the right to an effective remedy," concluded Deputy McNamara.