One in every 33 people who has entered mandatory hotel quarantine in Ireland since the international travel rule began has tested positive for Covid-19.

Department of Health figures obtained by RTÉ News show that in the first five weeks of the system, a total of 1,755 people have been asked to quarantine in a designated hotel for 12 days.

Of these, 54 have tested positive for Covid-19, including five people who have tested positive for a "variant of concern".

The figures mean that, on average, one in every 33 people who has entered mandatory hotel quarantine has had the virus, and one in 300 have had a variant of concern.

No breakdown by nationality of those involved or which variants were detected was provided.

The Department of Health has also confirmed that, on average, one in every three people who is told to enter mandatory hotel quarantine has tried to appeal the decision since the system was introduced on Friday 26 March.

In the first five weeks of the system, 685 of the 1,755 people told they must quarantine in a designated hotel appealed the decision, including 30 appeals made this week.

Of this number, just 71 appeals have been accepted, including four this week, while 614 have been refused - meaning just one in every 10 appeals has been accepted to date.

The number of people to begin mandatory hotel quarantine has been increasing every week since the system began.

In the first week, 195 people were started their 12-day quarantine period, rising to 248 in the second week, 421 in the third week, 521 in the fourth week, and 370 people who entered quarantine at the start of this week.

At the start of this week, a total of 848 people were quarantining in 692 hotel rooms, rising to 889 people in 768 rooms when Defence Forces personnel and people in the facilities' "Covid-19 positive wings" were taken into account.

Serious concerns were raised earlier this month over capacity in the system, leading to an increase in rooms being sourced a fortnight ago.


Latest coronavirus stories


Asked to provide an update on the situation, the department said that at the start of this week 837 rooms were available in eight hotels which have a total capacity of 1,607 rooms.

The department did not directly say how many people have absconded from mandatory hotel quarantine since the system was introduced, whether all of these people have been located, or how many are currently missing from the system.

Instead, a spokesperson said: "It is a criminal offence if you do not fulfil the legal requirement to present for mandatory hotel quarantine, if you resist being brought to quarantine or if you leave a designated facility without authorisation.

"A person found guilty of these or other relevant offences is liable for a fine of up to €2,000, imprisonment for one month, or both.

"An Garda Síochána will investigate any suspected offences and enforce these laws".

Mandatory hotel quarantine was introduced in Ireland on Friday 26 March after weeks of discussions on the issue and almost a year of calls from medical groups to introduce the policy.

Under the current rules, which are replicated in many other countries, anyone travelling into Ireland from one of almost 70 countries on a Covid-19 risk list must stay in one of eight designated mandatory hotel quarantine hotels for 12 days.

Exceptions can be made in certain circumstances, including in rare cases on compassionate grounds.

The person attending mandatory hotel quarantine must pay to do so, with a cost per adult of €1,875.

Extra rates of €625 for a child over the age of 12 who is staying with the adult, €360 for a child aged 4-12 who is with the adult, and no charge for children under the age of four, apply.

While no decision has been made on a European Union travel system, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters earlier this week that she intends to establish one that would allow people who have been vaccinated or can prove they do not have Covid-19 to avoid mandatory hotel quarantine.

Ms von der Leyen told the New York Times that she wants to see a return of vaccinated tourists from the United States, no decision has been made on either potential policy, both in the EU and in Ireland.