1431. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice if she will reverse the new visa requirements on passport holders from a number of countries which came into effect at midnight on 27 January 2021, due to the commencement of the mandatory hotel quarantining system in the meantime which addresses the public health argument; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19400/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As part of Government efforts to tackle the pandemic, I signed an Order that has imposed new visa requirements on passport holders from a number of South American countries and South Africa. This Order and the associated measures came into effect at midnight on 27 January 2021.
The framework for these restrictive measures is set out in the Government’s Resilience and Recovery: Plan for Living with COVID 19 and these measures have now been extended to at least 5 May 2021.
In addition to the new requirements above, the Immigration Services of my Department also took the decision to temporarily cease accepting new visa/preclearance applications with the exception of the priority/emergency case types listed below, which will continue to be accepted. This is effective from close of business on 29 January 2021 and applies to all countries.
Priority/Emergency cases will continue to be accepted/processed and these include the following:
- Workers or self-employed persons exercising critical occupations including healthcare workers, frontier and posted workers as well as seasonal workers as referred to in the Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during the COVID-19 outbreak;
- transport workers or transport service providers, including drivers of freight vehicles carrying goods for use in the territory as well as those merely transiting;
- patients travelling for imperative medical reasons;
- pupils, students and trainees who travel abroad on a daily basis and Third-country nationals travelling for the purpose of 3rd level study;
- persons travelling for imperative family or business reasons;
- diplomats, staff of international organisations and people invited by international organisations whose physical presence is required for the well-functioning of these organisations, military personnel and police officers, and humanitarian aid workers and civil protection personnel in the exercise of their functions;
- passengers in transit;
- seafarers;
- journalists, when performing their duties.
These measures are designed to support our current public health restrictions on movement, including into and out of Ireland. The increased travel restrictions, along with the mandatory hotel quarantine measures introduced as part of the Government’s efforts to interrupt the transmission of COVID-19, means that travel may not be possible and even if possible is not advisable unless absolutely essential. It is currently against the law for any person (regardless of nationality or passport) to travel within Ireland for non-essential purposes and people can be fined for doing so.
The new visa requirements work in tandem with the mandatory hotel quarantine system introduced by the Minister for Health. When making such decisions, the Government considers the expert public health advices of NPHET to tackle the disease. The visa situation will continue to be reviewed in consultation with the relevant authorities in the coming weeks.