Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke.
Legislation to allow for mandatory hotel quarantine for some people arriving into the country will go before the Cabinet today.
Plans for the legislation had been announced a number of weeks ago, however it has taken some time to draft and will now be considered by Ministers later today.
The legislation will mean anyone who arrives from one of the 20 countries on the high-risk list will be required to quarantine at their own expense in a State nominated hotel, which will be policed by private security, and the Government will be able to add countries to the quarantine list as needed.
It is expected the bill for the mandatory hotel quarantine will be approximately €2,000 per adult.
Among the countries included on the quarantine list at present are Brazil, South Africa, Austria, the UAE and many sub-Saharan African countries, due to fears about new variants.
Hotel quarantine will also apply to people who arrive in the State from other countries without a negative PCR test and refuse to take one.
The Cabinet is also expected to consider legislation that will increase fines for going on holiday from €500 to €2,000 in an effort to clamp down on unnecessary journeys.
According to a report published by the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre (HPSC), travel was thought to be the most likely transmission source of 76 confirmed cases of Covid-19 during the two-week period to February 14th.
‘Perfect field’ of protection
Professor of immunology, Paul Moynagh said he could see the advantages of mandatory quarantine measures to limit the importation of new variants, but warned it was difficult to get “a perfect field” of protection around the country.
Prof Moynagh, who is also director of the Kathleen Lonsdale Institute for Human Health research at Maynooth University, told Newstalk Breakfast that “unfortunately” many of the new variants were already in the country.
Prof Moynagh gave a “cautionary” welcome for the most recent Covid-19 figures, but warned of the premature lifting of restrictions which in the past had led to “severe increases” in Covid cases.
There was a need to balance the risk of pandemic fatigue against the need for hope. There were a number of reasons to be positive – rates are dropping, however, they are not falling as quickly as he would like.
More than 50 under 18s hospitalised with Covid-19…
“Vaccinations are the way out of this,” he said and optimising the speed of the rollout was important.
While there Department of Health has been notified of 210,402 cases of Covid-19 as of Monday evening, Prof Moynagh said it was possible three, or even five times that number had gone through the virus without knowing it or having symptoms.
This could mean up to 15-20 per cent of the population have already been exposed to the virus, which has given them some level of protection.
“We should soon begin to see the positives,” he added.