More than 34,000 people arrived into the State – including more than 1,200 from high-risk countries such as Brazil and South Africa – in the three-week period after the Government signed off on mandatory hotel quarantine plans.
Coalition plans to confine arrivals from 33 high-risk countries in hotels are still not operational more than a month after the Cabinet signed off on them and a fortnight after President Michael D Higgins signed them into law. The system is expected to begin this week.
New figures from the Department of Justice show that between February 22 and last Sunday, 34,417 people arrived, including 20,759 Irish residents and 13,658 non-residents.
The most popular reason residents and non-residents gave for flying into Ireland was a holiday or visit.
The department did not provide a breakdown of how many had been abroad or were arriving on holiday or a visit.
Irish was the top nationality, with Great Britain being the most popular country of departure.
The Sunday Independent reported last month that more than 9,000 people, including 7,600 Irish residents, gave holidays or visits as their reason for travelling in a two-week period in February.
The Government is continuing to advise against all non-essential travel in and out of the State, with all arrivals requiring a negative PCR test within the previous 72 hours.
Passengers arriving in Ireland between February 22 and March 14 included 1,000 people from Brazil, the vast majority of whom – 908 – were Irish residents, and 213 from South Africa, 129 of whom were residents.
On average, just under 50 people a day have been arriving from Brazil, although on one day last month – February 24 – 100 arrived.
Both countries are on the schedule two list of countries public health officials have deemed to have variants of concern.
On Thursday, Nphet confirmed there are 24 cases of the B1351 variant that originated in South Africa in Ireland and seven of the P1 variant that originated in Brazil.
Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, confirmed the majority of these cases were travel-related, but said there were “some” in the community that did not have a travel link.
Thirty-three countries are on the list, including the UAE, which has previously accounted for a large number of overseas arrivals, and several Latin American and African countries.
The Department of Justice was able to provide statistics only for Brazil and South Africa when asked for detailed figures last week.
It also said staff at its border management unit would no longer collect such data once mandatory quarantine is operational as staff will be assisting with the new system.
Arrivals from schedule two countries will be required to go into mandatory quarantine in a hotel for two weeks and undergo testing for Covid-19.
The Government is expected to put the new system into operation early this week. It will take 48 hours from when the online booking system goes live for people who arrive to be sent into hotel quarantine.
Once it is up and running, anyone arriving from these countries will be asked by their airline to book a spot in a designated hotel quarantine facility. It will cost up to 2,000 per adult for a two-week stay.
Anyone who flies in without a negative PCR test will also be quarantined.
At present, arrivals from the schedule two countries are asked to quarantine at home for up to 14 days, and can be subject to garda checks to ensure they remain at home.
It is unclear how many checks have been carried out in recent weeks.
The Sunday Independent previously revealed how gardaí were for three weeks unable to carry out checks on hundreds of people arriving in the State from high-risk countries because of data protection issues that prevented the Department of Health from sharing the information.
Gardaí only began house checks at the end of last month, weeks after the home quarantine provisions were introduced.
Sunday Independent