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Ireland scraps red list and hotel quarantine – could the UK do the same?

Ireland scraps red list and hotel quarantine – could the UK do the same?
Sudden decision by Dublin offers additional ‘back door’ to UK – though the law is clear that a 10-day stay is needed in the republic

After Ireland suddenly abolished its red list and hotel quarantine scheme on Saturday evening, speculation is increasing that the UK might do the same.

Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, advised the health minister, Stephen Donnelly, to end the requirement for people arriving from some countries to go into a quarantine hotel.

Everyone currently in one of Ireland’s eight quarantine hotels was discharged immediately.

Ireland’s Department of Health announced: “The Mandatory Hotel Quarantine system has been scaled down progressively over recent months as the designation of a large number of states has been revoked.

“These revocations have been in line with the government’s revised approach to international travel, the success of Ireland’s vaccine roll-out and the evolution of the pandemic internationally.”

The decision was taken because the Delta variant has become so dominant. Ireland now matches Germany, which has no nations in its highest-risk category.

Ireland’s system was set up in March 2021, shortly after the UK’s hotel quarantine scheme began.

Since then, more than 10,000 people have completed Ireland’s hotel quarantine. At its height, 60 countries were on the republic’s red list.

Many nations, including South Africa, Cuba and Tunisia, were removed from Ireland’s red list a month ago.

They remain on the UK’s red list, along with more than 50 other countries.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), which advises UK ministers on the current “traffic light” system, says the red list is for locations where there is:

  • high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern
  • known emerging or high-risk variants under investigation
  • very high (or rapidly increasing) and unexplained prevalence of Covid-19

There has been widespread condemnation from senior travel industry figures of the UK’s red list, which currently includes more than one in four countries worldwide.

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency and a campaigner for opening up international travel, tweeted: “Ireland have just sunk the UK Government’s hotel quarantine policy.

“I could now fly from South Africa or Brazil to Dublin and then fly on a separate ticket the following day to London, as you don’t need to fill in a passenger locator form from Dublin.”

In fact, a stay of 10 full days would be needed in the republic to comply with UK law.

Anyone who arrives in the UK having been in a red list nation on any of the previous 10 days must declare the fact and pay in advance for hotel quarantine.