Omicron variant: Irish residents arriving from southern Africa must quarantine

Omicron variant: Irish residents arriving from southern Africa must quarantine

Irish residents returning home from the area in southern Africa where a new Covid variant has been identified will have to undergo home quarantine and PCR testing.

It is one of a number of measures being introduced following concerns about transmission levels of the new Omicron strain.

Ireland currently has no direct flights from any of the countries affected.

The Government has announced the State is to align with the EU recommendation to apply the “emergency brake” and to discourage travel to or from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.


The Department of Justice is updating visa requirements for those countries and the Department of Foreign Affairs has changed its travel advisory to “avoid non-essential travel” to these countries.

Meanwhile, the Government is to reintroduce the legislation for the mandatory hotel quarantine system (MHQ) with a view to re-establishing it in the coming weeks.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One news, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said initial indications were that the new variant was “highly transmissible” and that it had “outperformed or taken over from Delta” in South Africa.

“We’re acting in a precautionary manner in line with the UK and the rest of Europe,” he said.


It comes as a further 4,620 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the Republic on Friday amid growing global fears over the Omicron variant.

Global response

Authorities around the world have reacted with alarm to the new variant, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as researchers sought to establish out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant.

The World Health Organisation has cautioned against hasty travel bans. "It's really important that there are no knee-jerk responses here," said the WHO's emergencies director Mike Ryan, praising South Africa's public health institutions for picking up the new variant.

The WHO said it would take weeks to determine how effective vaccines were against the variant.


South Africa's health minister Joe Phaahla called the travel restrictions "unjustified", though he also said preliminary studies suggested the new variant may be more transmissible.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would halt air travel from the region. Several other countries including India, Japan and Israel toughened curbs.

"It is now important that all of us in Europe act very swiftly, decisively and united," von der Leyen said. "All air travel to these countries should be suspended until we have a clearer understanding about the danger posed by this new variant."

The United States will restrict travel from South Africa – where the new mutation was discovered – and neighbouring countries effective Monday, a senior Biden administration official said.

Canada also said it was closing its borders to those countries.

Top US infectious disease official Anthony Fauci said there was no indication that the variant was in the United States. It was unclear whether it was resistant to current vaccines, he told CNN.

The news pummelled global stocks and oil, which plunged 10 per cent, on fears that new restrictions would hit the travel industry and already shaky economies across southern Africa. – Additional reporting: Reuters