Speaking out in favour of tighter monitoring of international travel, Róisín Shortall TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats, has called on the Taoiseach to assign responsibility for travel and quarantining to a different Minister.

Deputy Shortall, who is raising the issue in the Dáil today, commented:

“As it stands, the Minister for Health is dealing with the huge demands of responding to the pandemic, rolling out the vaccination programme, and maintaining our health service. It simply does not make sense that the same Minister would also have responsibility for implementing and overseeing the entire regime for monitoring international travel during the pandemic.

“This is particularly important now that the UK has announced new mandatory hotel quarantine rules for UK and Irish residents. This work demands a serious time commitment and renewed focus to address both ongoing issues and newly emerging problems. These include:

  • Oversight of home quarantining
  • Preparation for mandatory hotel quarantining, including passing necessary legislation, procuring hotels and transport, and ensuring adequate security measures
  • Policing at ports and airports in line with new rules
  • Stopping the ‘Dublin dodge’, whereby Dublin is being used as a backdoor to access Northern Ireland and avoid UK travel rules
  • Sharing passenger locator forms across jurisdictions
  • Implementing a joint strategy with Northern Ireland to ensure the border can remain open while preventing backdoor entries to both countries

“There are three other Ministers who play a role in this area and who have had fewer additional demands placed on their time as a result of the pandemic than the Health Minister – these are Justice, Foreign Affairs and Transport.

“Travel has been a weak link in the Government’s strategy from the beginning, and it would be foolhardy to allow that to continue. In the last week alone, 12,730 people arrived into Irish airports from overseas. We need to make a serious move now to prevent the importation of the virus given the enormous challenges posed by the new variants that we are aware of, as well as the potential of unknown emerging variants.

“The Taoiseach needs to assign responsibility to a different Minister to oversee travel restrictions and monitor the public’s adherence. He must ensure that this extremely important body of work gets the resources it requires at this time in order to protect our public and prevent further importation of the virus and new variants.”

February 10, 2021

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