New Penalties For Arrivals To Ireland During Lockdown
Will the new rules and penalties for arrivals during COVID19 lockdown be used to protect Irish citizens from infection or will these totalitarian measures penalise returning Irish diaspora and infringe on our rights and liberties?
What is changing to the rules for quarantining visitors?
From Thursday, all passengers arriving into the country are legally required to complete a Covid-19 passenger locator form making it mandatory for travellers arriving into the airports and ports to tell the State where they will be self-isolating for 14 days. Self-isolation means completely avoiding contact with others and is more stringent that the stay-at-home measures that the wider public are having to adhere to. The form will remain in place until June 18th.
Why is the State doing this?
The Government wants to track all visitors and ensure precautions are being taken to stem the spread of Covid-19 from abroad.
But wasn’t the State doing this already?
Yes, but it was not a legal obligation until now. Visitors arriving at airports and ports before today had been asked to fill out a form on “an administrative basis”, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said. It is now an offence if they refuse. Arrivals had previously been advised to self-isolate for 14 days once they came into the State. These changes make it legally enforceable to complete the form and prevent people from providing false information.
What exactly do you have to write on the form?
Each passenger aged 16 or older has to provide their name, address, contact details where they can be reached and their places and dates of residence for the following 14 days for themselves and any children travelling with them. They must also provide information on the name of the aircraft/ferry they arrived on, the date and time of their arrival, their points of departure and arrival, and the reason for their travel.
What happens if people refuse to fill out the form?
They can face a fine of up to €2,500 or six months in prison, or both, if they do not complete the form, if they provide false or misleading information, or if they fail to provide an update of any information should they move to a different location within the 14-day isolation period.
This feels like a big deal in a democracy and particularly when membership of the European Union and the Common Travel Area with Britain guarantees freedom of movement. Is it?
Yes. These rules are onerous but they are aimed at preventing the spread of a disease that has already killed more than 1,600 people in the State. Mr Harris has said: “These are extraordinary measures but they are necessary in a time of a public health crisis.”
Does this only apply to foreign nationals?
No. Everyone over 16, whether Irish or not, must fill out the form and self-isolate for 14 days if they are coming into the country from abroad.
How will these rules be monitored or enforced?
Follow-up checks can be made to make sure people who travel into the country are staying where they said they would be. If there is a confirmed or suspected case on a flight or ferry coming into the country, the form will allow State officials to carry out more accurate and quicker contact tracing to identify any people who had contact with the infected individual on a plane or boat. It is an offence to refuse to provide information requested to verify the details on the form.
Can you move address during the 14-day quarantine?
Yes, but you have to provide an update if you do.
What about people arriving and travelling on to Northern Ireland or other countries?
Passengers travelling on to Northern Ireland or overseas who are leaving the port or airport but not residing in the State overnight do not need to provide further contact information. Residents of Northern Ireland only have to fill out part of the form.
Does it apply to people who cross the Border from North to South?
No. People arriving from Northern Ireland are exempt.
Who else is exempt?
Passengers transiting through a port or airport who do not exit the port or airport do not need to fill out the form. Lorry drivers and holders of an international travel worker certificate do not need to fill out the forms if they are in the course of performing their duties. Aircraft and ship crews and foreign diplomats do not need to fill out the forms. Healthcare workers are not exempt; they must fill out the form.
So should you travel abroad?
The Government continues to advise Irish citizens and residents against all non-essential international travel but if you do travel, you will have to self-isolate for 14 days on your return.
Are travellers advised to avoid public transport after leaving ports or airports on arrival?
Will these rules affect many people?
Not many. The number of visitors have dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic by more than 99 per cent. For example, just 613 passengers were scheduled to arrive and depart through Dublin Airport yesterday. On the same day last year, the number was almost 105,000.