Ireland is the latest country to adopt a new rule for incoming travelers and residents returning from coronavirus hot spots that allows them to quarantine for 5 days instead of 14 if they take a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and procure a negative result.
In line with the European Commission’s guidance regarding COVID-19 travel restrictions, Ireland has identified countries deemed lower risk and higher risk based on data provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
European countries that are “green” are lower risk and travelers from those countries do not need to quarantine upon arrival in Ireland. Countries that are “orange,” “red,” or “grey” are deemed higher risk and travelers from those countries must quarantine for 14 days—unless they get tested.
The same testing option applies to all arrivals from non–European Union countries as well. While the majority of Europe remains off-limits for many foreign travelers—including for most Americans—Ireland has allowed travelers from abroad to enter as long as they submitted to a quarantine.
“This [14-day] period of restricted movement can end if you receive a negative result of a PCR test that has been taken a minimum of five days after your arrival in Ireland. You should wait for your negative test result to be returned before ending the period of restricted movements,” the Irish government stated in an update to its COVID-19 travel policy, which went into effect on November 29.
Based on the government’s advice, depending on how long it takes to get the PCR test result, the quarantine could last a bit longer than 5 days.
Those arriving to Ireland from overseas must fill out a COVID-19 passenger locator form online (a paper version will also be available at the airport in Ireland).
While the reduced quarantine may be tempting for international travelers, they should also note that as of December 2, Ireland was still at a “Level 3” for COVID-related restrictions—restrictions that severely limit and effectively almost prohibit tourists from visiting. While in this alert tier, travel between counties is limited to essential needs, and hotels and other accommodations are only open for residents. Effective December 18, some restrictions will relax in time for the holiday season—for instance, travel between counties will be allowed. But non-residents will still not be permitted at hotels, guesthouses, or bed-and-breakfast lodgings.
Ireland’s move to a testing alternative comes just as England unveiled a similar scheme. Beginning December 15, passengers who arrive in England from destinations subject to the U.K’s 14-day quarantine requirement can reduce their quarantine period by more than half if they test negative for the coronavirus. As part of the government’s new Test to Release strategy, travelers from nonexempt countries can opt to take a COVID-19 PCR test after 5 days of self-isolation, and if the test comes back negative they’ll be allowed to skip the remainder of the 14-day quarantine.
In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also encouraging international travelers to submit to a two-test process: one COVID-19 test taken 1 to 3 days prior to traveling, and one taken 3 to 5 days after arrival, and advises travelers to stay home for one week after travel.