One case of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 was found in the republic from a group of eight cases that have been sequenced, it has been confirmed.
The confirmation came during a briefing for the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Wednesday.
The case is understood to be travel related and was found in a person who traveled to the country from a particular country last week.
The emergence of the new shape last week, which some experts fear may be more transmissible, prompted the government on Friday to impose travel restrictions on passengers from seven southern African countries: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique.
People arriving in Ireland from these countries are required to quarantine at home for 10 days after entering the country.
Although the number of affected travelers will be small, the reimposition of travel restrictions marks another return to tighter restrictions to get Covid under control.
Travelers from designated countries will also have to submit an ‘undetected’ pre-flight PCR result, regardless of vaccination status, quarantine at home for 10 days and undergo two more PCR tests.
The obligation is old for new arrivals from these countries, who will be tracked and contacted using the passenger locator form. Police will initially monitor compliance.
Concerns about Omicron and the persistently high level of Covid cases in the state have led the government to agree to a raft of measures.
These procedures require travelers to Ireland from any country to show negative PCR or antigen test results, introduce the wearing of masks for primary school children of third grade and above, and require parents to limit their children’s socialization.
Two legislation – one to extend many of Covid’s powers and one specifically to revive mandatory hotel quarantines if needed – will be brought to Dáil and Seanad in the coming days.
The mandatory hotel law is necessary because those powers have already fallen, while other Covid powers – including those relating to masks, hospitality restrictions, Covid certifications, travel restrictions and more – are set to expire early next year.
Officials are currently preparing orders to require travelers to the country to show a negative PCR or antigen test result from Friday. There will be «spot checks» at the airport to make sure passengers are complying, but officials said it will mostly be up to airlines and ferry companies to make sure passengers may test negative.
The government is considering imposing fines on airlines that allow people without tests to board the plane, while the spokesman confirmed that there will be fines for passengers who could not show a negative result in the test. There will be no screening for travelers from Northern Ireland.
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