Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said there are currently around 1,000 to 3,500 international arrivals into the country each day, while 10,500 people arrived at Dublin Airport last week.

During a Dáil debate on mandatory quarantine legislation, Mr Donnelly said that while the UK has implemented mandatory hotel quarantine, very few other European countries have implemented such measures.

However, he added that the risk of importing variants and their potential impact on the vaccination programme means that Ireland must act. 

He said that he believed the Government's bill on mandatory quarantine struck a "fair and proportionate balance". 

However, Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane accused the Government of implementing half measures when it comes to quarantine rules.

Mr Cullinane told the Dáil "it's been nine months since NPHET recommended that discretionary elements of travel should end", adding that it was "disappointing that nine months later the solutions in relation to checks and controls at airports are still not put in place".

Mr Cullinane told the Minister he believed that people were craving leadership, and told Mr Donnelly to "stop the mixed messages".

"You have to stop the poor communication, you have to stop with the botched media interviews, you have to stop with the half measures, and you need to be putting in place the solutions that people can have confidence in," he added.

Mr Cullinane said that if mandatory hotel quarantine for all non-essential travellers is not put in place, then people's efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 will be in vain. He said he believed people are "losing faith, if not many people have already lost faith".

He accused Mr Donnelly of not sharing information with his counterpart in Northern Ireland, adding that "the Minister for Health in the North has reached out time and again on this issue and yet you as Minister and your Government have not responded".

He said Sinn Féin would be tabling several amendments to the legislation, including one to ensure there is "data sharing North and South".

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Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said that the failure to tackle international travel and allow the importation of variants represents "one of the biggest failings of this Government". 

She said that it has contributed to the "low mood" around the country. 

People-Before-Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett said that the proposed legislation on mandatory quarantine was "the latest instalment in the totally defective and failed policy of this Government for dealing with Covid-19".

He said that it amounted to quarantine in name only.

Mr Boyd-Barrett, whose party advocates a zero-Covid policy, said that Government risked "undermining the huge sacrifices and efforts that everybody else is making". 

He said Government was "guaranteeing that the lockdown will go on indefinitely". 

AGSI express concern over transportation of people to quarantine facilities

The General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has said if there is a role for sergeants, inspectors or garda colleagues in transporting people to a designated facility for mandatory quarantine, the AGSI would like to explore if there is an increased risk of catching Covid-19 and if they are putting their members into "a Covid rich environment".

Antoinette Cunningham told RTÉ's Drivetime that they would like to know what protections are there for their members and if additional PPE would be made available.

Just hours after the Health Amendment Bill 2021 was introduced to the Dáil, she said they have "absolutely no idea whatsoever" about what role, if any, gardaí would have in policing mandatory quarantine.

She said they have received no consultation or operational instructions or guidelines in this area.

She said while the gardaí's role will be decided by the Garda Commissioner and the law, the AGSI would be concerned about their members' "exposure to any health and safety and risk attached to such supervision or transporting or indeed any role that we would have in this".

Tánaiste 'confident' over 80% of adults will get jab by end of June

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he is confident that over 80% of adults will have at least one vaccination by the end of June.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Varadkar said that "if we vaccinate everyone over 60 and under 60 with chronic conditions, that's 98% of the job" in terms of deaths and hospitalisations.

He said the vaccines could make a real difference in terms of deaths and serious illness by May or June and that will put the Government in a position "to make decisions we cannot make now".

Mr Varadkar said that based on certain assumptions around supply and approval of new vaccines, the Government is confident that vaccines will rise from 100,000 a week to 250,000 a week in April and up to 300,000 a week after that.

He said that 7,500 people have been trained to give vaccines, vaccination centres are opening up around the country and community pharmacists will be vaccinated shortly to start assisting from April.

The Tánaiste said that there is an expectation that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be approved and come on stream in April, which is a single-dose vaccine.

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The figures are contingent on that happening and also factor in a reduction in AstraZeneca vaccine supplies, but regardless Mr Varadkar said the aim is that more than half the adult population will be vaccinated by the end of June.

He said the Government is not keen to delay second doses for now, as there are concerns that partial vaccination may increase the risk of variants arising while some people are not fully vaccinated.

The Government's plan for Living with Covid-19 in the period ahead was published yesterday.

It states that, after schools, childcare and more health services return next month, there is the potential for the further opening up of society and the economy in April if Covid-19 levels are falling.

The early reaction from Opposition parties is that it lacks sufficient concrete actions to ensure the virus is suppressed next month.

Ms Shortall said she was concerned that the latest plan is "more of the same" and nothing new.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said actions to date have not been sufficient to drive down case numbers.

Ms Shortall said for this reason there had to be a new strategy and it would be important to set a target in relation to case numbers, rather than dates.

She added that the Government should put in place concrete measures to drive down numbers, such as directing employers to allow employees work from home, where possible, and giving lower paid workers better financial supports so that they do not continue to go to work while feeling unwell.

In the Dáil earlier, Labour leader Alan Kelly castigated the Government over its revised Covid-19 strategy, branding it a "hope and see" document, which will not help people who are now living "in despair".

He contended that the Government had announced "no new tools" to suppress the virus, nor provided metrics by which the public could understand how the State would exit Level 5 restrictions.

Mr Kelly described the Government's plans for mandatory hotel quarantine as "laughable", when "... 2,000 Brazilians were able to come into this country to work in low pay employment".

In reply, Taoiseach Micheál Martin accused Mr Kelly of being "a bit populist", and stated it was "wrong" to talk about 2,000 Brazilians coming into the State when some "could be Irish residents".

He added: "You should reflect on that."

He also criticised the Labour leader, contending his party was changing its Covid-19 policy "every month".

On the revised Covid-19 strategy, the Taoiseach said he disagreed with Mr Kelly's analysis, arguing it was "guided by public health" and was "the correct approach".

Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane, Paul Cunningham