DUBLIN — After months of delay, Ireland will begin quarantining passengers on arrival deemed at high risk of spreading the coronavirus — a plan that critics call arbitrary and dangerous for unvaccinated police officers.
Starting Friday, any travelers who arrive in Ireland without a negative coronavirus test result in hand will be escorted to a hotel near Dublin Airport. So will any passengers who are from, or have recently traveled through, any of 33 countries on a list of high-risk destinations, which includes Austria, Dubai, 17 African nations and all of South America.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly conceded it was “one of the great unknowns” how many people the system would house. He said he hoped the threat of restrictions and high costs would substantially deter inbound travel. Individual adults must pay €1,875 in advance for a 12-day hotel quarantine with three room-delivered meals daily.
Travelers from other countries who arrive without a valid negative PCR test will be required to book a room for €150 a day. They will be allowed to leave once they are tested and deemed free of the virus, potentially by the next day.
Security at each site will be provided by private firms backed by a single army officer. If unwilling residents try to leave, the only people who can legally stop them are members of An Garda Síochána, the national police force — virtually none of whom have been vaccinated in a nation still inoculating its most elderly citizens.
“Hotel quarantining will be unsustainable without vaccination,” said Antoinette Cunningham, general secretary of the police association for inspectors and sergeants. “We could potentially become the super-spreaders of COVID-19 in our communities. People need absolute faith that, when guards (police) come into their house, they’re not bringing COVID-19 with them.”
Ireland has contracted the Tifco Hotel Group to provide the quarantine centers, the first of which is a Crowne Plaza near the airport. The group’s two dozen Irish properties — all idle because of a national lockdown in place since late December — include the Hard Rock Hotel in Dublin’s Temple Bar tourist quarter and the elegant Clontarf Castle Hotel.
Opposition lawmaker Paul Murphy said the system will discriminate against Africans and South Americans and allow Europeans and Americans to “self-quarantine,” the longstanding Irish policy that involves virtually no enforcement. He called for all arriving travelers to face mandatory hotel quarantine.
The government plan “will be a deterrent if you’re from one of the 33 countries,” he said. “But if you’re from Britain, or the U.S., where COVID is still completely out of control, or if you’re from other countries in Europe where another wave is under way, it is no deterrent whatsoever.”
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