The Mandatory Hotel Quarantine system has officially ended with the last 50 people released with immediate effect.

The Government had been phasing out the system and the most recent list consisted of just six countries, all from South America.

Mandatory Hotel Quarantine was introduced in Ireland in late March to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

In its early days, it was beset by problems, with people absconding, complaints about conditions and the sick and bereaved appealing for leniency.

Exemptions for the fully vaccinated and those travelling for medical reasons followed.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Around 10,300 people were required to enter mandatory hotel quarantine since March and at its height, 60 countries were on the list including France, Germany and the US. Since then, 593 residents tested positive for Covid-19.

In the past month, 98 people entered MHQ in Ireland, according to Government figures.

The decision to end the system was made on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.

It is understood that the dominance of the Delta variant in Ireland and elsewhere meant there were no remaining variants of concern that could be stopped from taking hold by requesting travellers to quarantine in hotels.

A Government source said the system was always designed to be short term and contracts with hotels were due to expire at the end of this month.

Those who arrive in Ireland without proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test will now be told to home quarantine.

"The Mandatory Hotel Quarantine system was introduced as an exceptional public health measure at a time that our country was contending with the very serious risk of importation of variants of concern that had the potential to overwhelm our health service and, in particular, to undermine Ireland's Covid-19 vaccination programme," said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

"The successful operation of MHQ has played a central role in protecting the population, maintaining control of the disease and enabling the safe relaxation of restrictions on our economy and society," added Mr Donnelly.

The Defence Forces, who assisted with the MHQ system, said they are stepping back "in a phased manner to revert to normal military operational activities and training, much of which has been paused since March 2020".

Sinn Féin's health spokesperson David Cullinane said the high vaccine uptake in Ireland and across the EU "has put us in a place where public health restrictions can be eased and in some instances ended".

"We, at all times, need to remain agile and vigilant but the high vaccine uptake has put us in a strong position where more and more public health restrictions will come to an end. All such decisions must be guided by the most up-to-date public health advice," he said.