Three people who absconded from hotel quarantine in north Dublin earlier today have been returned to the facility.

It is understood that the three people left the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry earlier today by car, and were later intercepted by a Garda motorway patrol near Loughrea in Co Galway. 

Following a conversation with gardaí, it is understood the three people agreed to return to the designated quarantine facility. 

A statement from the Garda Press Office confirmed that gardaí were "liaising with the State Liaison Officer at a designated quarantine facility in accordance with current protocols following a report of three people leaving a facility in the Dublin area earlier today.

"A graduated policing response was adopted by gardaí and all three have since been returned to the facility," the statement said.

"As the Department of Health are the lead agency in relation to the management of mandatory quarantining, An Garda Síochána will not be commenting further at this time," the statement concluded.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that "in the interests of protecting confidentiality," it "does not comment on individual cases".

However, the spokesperson did highlight that it was a "criminal offence" for a person to "leave a designated facility without authorisation" and that a person "found guilty of these or other offences is liable for a fine of up to €2,000, imprisonment for one month, or both."

RTÉ understands that, so far, none of the three individuals who absconded from the facility have been charged with any offence.

Latest coronavirus stories

Meanwhile the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, has denied he is "at logger heads" with the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney over a proposal to add more countries to the mandatory hotel quarantine list.

Speaking on RTÉ's Primetime programme, Mr Donnelly said there has been "some painting of Minister Coveney or others as being anti-hotel-quarantining .. they are not, this is a Government decision, it is a Government plan".

The minister said that what was happening now was a period of consultation as had been envisaged in the legislation.

Countries with variants of concern are being discussed by the Government. Within the EU, these are Austria, which is already on the list, France, Germany and Italy.

Mr Donnelly said that currently less than half the approximately 650 hotel rooms available were being used for mandatory quarantine.

"We will have enough hotel rooms for whatever countries we decide to add," he said.

He added that mandatory hotel quarantine was "a short term measure" that "we only want in place for a few months".

When asked about a proposal to place a cap on the number of people allowed to enter the country, Mr Donnelly did not rule it out, saying that "you would keep everything on the table".

He said adding France, Germany and Italy to the list were "very serious decisions" for Cabinet.

"We're talking about our closest neighbours, we are talking about restricting freedom of movement within the EU, so we will move forward by consensus, we will move forward with Cabinet," Mr Donnelly said.