The Government is adding 26 states to its mandatory hotel quarantine list but no further European Union countries are included.

From 4am next Tuesday, 6 April, people arriving in Ireland from these countries and territories must pre-book accommodation for 12 nights mandatory hotel quarantine on arrival and pay for the stay.

The length of stay can be reduced if a person receives a negative test for the virus on day ten of quarantine.

Plans to include France, Germany and Italy on the list from which travellers must quarantine in a hotel for 12 days were shelved - for now - following significant divisions in Cabinet.

Talks took place between Ministers for Health Stephen Donnelly and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney as well as their officials this afternoon.

Mr Donnelly was understood to still be supportive of the public health advice to include a number of EU countries where cases are high.

But following resistance from Mr Coveney, these EU countries were not included for now.

However, sources did not rule out them being added to the list at a later date.

The states on the list announced this evening are: Albania, Andorra, Aruba, Bahrain, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, Ethiopia, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Oman, Palestine, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Serbia, Somalia and Wallis and Futuna Islands.

The announcement brings to 59 the number of countries and territories deemed high risk by the Government.

Those already on the list include Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told RTÉ's Six One: "We are going to add significantly more countries" to the mandatory quarantine list but said there were practical issues to consider.

"Has the Department of Health enough hotels to cater for the demand, for example. There are also legal issues around EU citizens' right to travel."

Mr Varadkar said there were "hundreds of thousands" of Irish citizens living in the EU and the United States "who may not have the money" for hotel quarantine.

He said Ireland already had the strictest security around travel in the EU as "all non essential travel is against the law here".

Earlier, Minister of State for Business, Damien English, said there were "complications" to extending the mandatory hotel quarantine list to include EU countries "for Irish people who want to return" here.

Attorney General Paul Gallagher had written to Mr Donnelly about the proposal to include countries such as France, Germany and Italy on the mandatory quarantine list.

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RTÉ News understands that the letter says that any such plans would have to be legally robust, as the arrangements could be challenged in the courts.

Speaking on Highland Radio today, Mr Coveney said: "This is primarily about Irish people coming home ... should we be putting them into a hotel and charging them for the privilege?"

He said it may be possible for another risk-based response but if not and they all had to quarantine in hotels, "the question is, do we have the capacity to deliver that resource?"

Minister Donnelly said mandatory hotel quarantining is "one of the measures to protect against variants coming in".

Hotel quarantine swabs

The Health Service Executive has carried out Covid-19 tests on 148 people currently in mandatory hotel quarantine.

It also swabbed 179 staff employed in the quarantine hotels.

Speaking at this afternoon's briefing, HSE CEO Paul Reid said that the swabs of quarantine hotel residents included those who arrived from countries on the prescribed list and those arriving into Ireland who could not produce a negative PCR test.

Mr Reid said the swabs had been carried out "last week" but did not give an exact date range. 

Mandatory hotel quarantine began last Friday, 26 March.

Staff working at quarantine hotels are swabbed weekly.

'All must be done' to keep variants out

A Professor of Genetics at Trinity College has said "all must be done" to keep new variants of Covid-19 from being imported to Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Professor Aoife McLysaght said if the "proper controls" are not in place on travel then the pandemic will "drag on". 

"We need to keep variants out. Without doing that we are just letting this drag on and there already has been too much suffering," she said. 

Prof McLysaght said Ireland must be prepared for new variants that are resistant to the vaccine.

"We should be reacting to that," she said.

She also called for "the proper resourcing" of public health departments around the country.

Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec, said that while everybody recognises that mass transit into countries is not currently advisable, adding countries like the United States and France to the mandatory hotel quarantine list is a "disproportionate response for the potential benefit we will get".

Also speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said it will still not be possible to seal the island with this measure because of Northern Ireland.

"We are not talking about international tourism, but about essential business reasons," Mr McCoy said. If it was "short and sharp" then it "might be justifiable" if it was coordinated.