knowledge | 10 May 2021

COVID-19: Updated Regulations Affect Most International Arrivals

The legal requirements faced by many passengers arriving into Ireland are complex.  This briefing outlines the core obligations and includes a synopsis table.

Overview

All passengers arriving into Ireland, other than from Northern Ireland (and with other limited exceptions), must:

  • complete a passenger locator form (a “PLF”);
  • provide evidence of a negative or ‘not detected’ result from an RT-PCR (COVID) test; and
  • complete a mandatory 14-day period of quarantine at the address stated on the PLF (unless arriving from a “designated state”, in which case a period of mandatory quarantine is likely to apply).

A list of designated states is available at www.gov.ie and is updated from time to time according to public health guidance.

SI 451 introduced the requirement that people arriving in the State who have been anywhere outside of the State, other than Northern Ireland, within 14 days of their arrival, must complete a PLF.  This provides contact details and a specific address at which the traveller will reside for 14 days (or for the entire duration of their stay in the State, if less than 14 days).  SI 45 is effective from 6 February 2021 to 9 June 2021 (an end date that may be extended).

The Health (Amendment) Act 2021 (the “Act”) affects most international arrivals and is effective from 26 March 2021 to 2 June 2021 (an end-date that may be extended).  The Act requires passengers arriving from or via a designated state – whether directly or indirectly (including via Northern Ireland) – at any time within 14 days prior to their arrival in the State, or arriving without a negative COVID test, to quarantine at a designated facility.  Such passengers must pre-book and pre-pay for a place in a designated facility for mandatory quarantine.

Mandatory Quarantine: Core obligation

From Friday 26 March 2021 to Wednesday 2 June 2021, the Act obliges an “applicable traveller” (an “AT”) to quarantine in a facility if he or she arrives in the State:

  • having been in a designated state within 14 days of arrival (even if the AT has most immediately arrived from Northern Ireland or from a place other than a designated state); or
  • without having a negative result of a COVID test taken within 72 hours of their arrival.

Unless exempt (see below), where an AT arrives in the State:

  • having been in a designated State at any time within the preceding 14 days, they must remain in the designated facility for 14 days, or for 10 days if the AT receives a negative COVID test result2;
  • from anywhere, without evidence of a negative COVID test result, the AT must remain in the designated facility for 10 days, or until he or she receives a negative COVID test result.  If an AT tests positive during the quarantine period, the AT must remain at the facility for the remainder of the 10-day period, or less if a medical practitioner is satisfied that the AT can effectively self-isolate at his or her residence.

An AT must pre-book and pre-pay for a place in a facility and, upon arrival into an airport or port of the State, must present himself or herself to an approved or relevant person or to a member of the Garda Síochána and must remain there until transport to the designated facility is arranged.  This relevant person / garda must furnish the AT with a written notice of the AT’s rights and obligations concerning quarantine and advise the AT of his or her right to request to leave the facility.

If an AT arrives without a relevant COVID test result, the AT must be assessed by a medical officer who may discharge the AT if satisfied that he or she can effectively self-isolate at the AT’s residence.

An AT, while in a facility, will be required to take a COVID test at such times as are designated by the Minister.  An AT may request that his or her quarantine, or that of a dependent person, is reviewed by a designated appeals officer called the State Liaison Officer.  This review must be completed within 24 hours of the request being made.  An appeal cannot be made prior to arrival at the facility.

Where a child arrives without a responsible adult (defined in the Act), a responsible adult may accompany the child to the facility and must remain for the duration that the child is required to remain.

Passenger Locator Form: Core obligation

From 6 February 2021, SI 45 obliges most people aged 16 years or more arriving in the State who, within 14 days of their arrival, have been in anywhere outside the State (that is not a designated state for mandatory hotel quarantine purposes), other than Northern Ireland (an “international passenger”), to complete a PLF.  The PLF is now an online form and is available at www.gov.ie.

In the PLF, international passengers are obliged to declare their contact details and a specific address in the State, or in Northern Ireland, at which he or she will reside for the 14 days following arrival in the State.  Where an international passenger travels directly to Northern Ireland after arriving in the State, the 14-day period begins upon the person’s arrival in the State.

Unless exempt (see below), an international passenger must complete the online PLF prior to arriving in the State and then provide a receipt (a “PLF receipt”) that is generated by the online passenger locator website, to a nominated State official in the relevant airport or port.

Where an international passenger arrives, other than at an airport or port (for example from Northern Ireland, having travelled to Northern Ireland from a place other than a designated state), he or she must complete the online PLF prior to arriving in the State and retain a copy of the email containing their PLF receipt for 14 days after arriving.  Should an international passenger be requested to do so, he or she must present this PLF receipt to a member of the Garda Síochána.

If an international passenger’s stay in the State will be for less than 14 days, their residence at the specified temporary “place of residence” is to be for the entire duration of the person’s stay in the State.

An adult accompanying a child or children aged less than 16 years must set out the number of children travelling with them on the adult’s PLF.

An international passenger may change their “place of residence” during the 14-day period but, if that happens, and if the person is residing within the State, the international passenger must notify that change to a nominated State official.

Nominated State officials (such as Immigration Service personnel and Health Service Executive “contact-tracers”), as well as members of the Garda Síochána, may require any international passenger who is within the State to provide more information about the person’s contact details and proposed “place of residence” for the 14-day period.

Individuals and companies that organise or facilitate the arrival of a relevant traveller by providing them with access to or use of a vehicle (“travel organisers”) (such as car-hire businesses) must take reasonable steps to inform the international passenger of the requirement to provide a negative Covid test and to complete the PLF process.

The current end-date for this requirement – 9 June 2021 – may be amended by a further statutory instrument.

Public health information

Information in respect of an AT is available for inspection by a person appointed by the HSE for the purposes of the Covid-19 Contact Management Programme.

State officials may contact an international passenger during the prescribed 14-day period after the person’s arrival (or at any stage during the international passenger’s stay in the State, if that is for less than 14 days) in order to provide the international passenger with relevant public health information.  This includes international passengers who travel directly to Northern Ireland upon arriving in the State.

Enforcement of mandatory quarantine requirements

The information provided in a PLF may also be used by members of the Garda Síochána in relation to the enforcement of mandatory quarantine requirements3.

Relevant ports and airports

The requirements that both the Act and SI 45 impose apply to international passengers arriving in the State’s principal airports (such as Dublin, Cork and Shannon4) and ports (such as Dublin, Cork and Rosslare5), as well as international passengers who arrive other than at an airport or port.

As outlined above, the place at which the person arrives in the State is relevant with regard to whether the person is obliged to present their PLF when arriving into the State (if at a designated airport or port) or must do so only where and when requested by a member of the Garda Síochána (if the person arrives into the State otherwise than at a designated airport or port).

Where an AT arrives from a designated state other than at an airport or port, or at an airport or port where no relevant person is present, the AT must present himself or herself at the facility within four hours of arrival.  Where an AT fails to do so, a member of the Garda Síochána may detain the AT and arrange for their transport to the facility.

Scope

Neither the Act nor SI 45 draws any distinction based on nationality and so, subject to the exemptions mentioned below, these obligations apply equally to Irish citizens and to others.

The requirement for mandatory quarantine in a facility applies to ATs arriving into the State from designated states and from designated states via Northern Ireland.

The obligation to complete a PLF applies to international passengers arriving into the State from Northern Ireland (who have been anywhere outside the State and Northern Ireland within the 14 days preceding the person’s arrival in the State) and also to those who travel directly to Northern Ireland upon arriving in the State from any place other than Northern Ireland.

This complex position is synopsised in the following table. You can download a copy of this table at the end of this briefing.

Exemptions

Certain categories of people are exempt from the PLF obligation, although they nonetheless need to state that exemption by partially completing a PLF.  Notably, however, an exception no longer exists for any person arriving into the State from Northern Ireland who has been anywhere outside the State and Northern Ireland within the 14 days preceding the person’s arrival in the State.

Certain persons who may be exempt from the obligation to complete a PLF may nonetheless be required to demonstrate a negative RT-PCR test (taken within 72 hours of arrival).

The PLF obligation

In respect of the obligation to complete a PLF, the principal exempt categories are:

  • ‘transit’ passengers (ie those who arrive in the State for the purposes of passing through the relevant airport or port in order to travel to another state, and who do not leave the relevant airport or port);
  • drivers of heavy goods vehicles, in the course of their work;
  • ship and aircraft crews who arrive in the State in the course of performing their duties;
  • foreign diplomats;
  • persons aged less than 16 years (the accompanying adult must provide the relevant child’s information).

A child aged less than 6 years is exempt from the requirement to provide a negative pre-departure COVID test.  An adult accompanying a child aged less than 18 years who arrives in the State must ensure that the child is complying with the requirement to have a relevant test result.

The mandatory quarantine obligation

Certain categories of people arriving from designated states are exempt from the obligation to quarantine at a designated facility.  The principal exempt categories are:

  • ‘transit passengers’ (as above);
  • drivers of heavy goods vehicles, in the course of their work;
  • ship and aircraft crews who arrive in the State in the course of performing their duties;
  • those travelling to the State pursuant to an arrest warrant, extradition proceedings or other mandatory legal obligation;
  • foreign diplomats;
  • a member of the Garda Síochána or Defence Forces (and their equivalents from another state) who is travelling to the State in the course of duty;
  • those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have the relevant documentation to prove this (the recognised vaccines and respective dosage requirements are available at www.gov.ie);
  • persons (and a carer or dependant person accompanying them) who is in possession of a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner and is returning to the State having travelled to a state for an unavoidable, imperative and time-sensitive medical reason.
  • responsible adults who are ordinarily resident in the State (and any dependant person accompanying them) travelling from a designated state with persons under the age of 18 who were not born in the State, have not previously been in the State and who are travelling to the State for the purpose of becoming ordinarily resident in the State; and
  • persons holding a Sport Ireland certification.

In addition, the Act provides that an AT may request a review of the mandatory quarantine in a facility by a designated appeals officer in exceptional circumstances, notably for urgent humanitarian reasons.  A request for review is required to be made in writing and must specify the ground(s) relied upon by the applicant.  The Act does not specify what humanitarian grounds are acceptable and this is a matter for the decision of the appeals officer on a case-by-case basis.  The appeals officer must give reasons for his or her decision.

Where a citizen has a genuine humanitarian emergency requiring urgent travel to the State and is not able to obtain the result of a pre-departure COVID test, he or she is advised to contact the nearest embassy or consulate for advice and assistance.

Data protection

Personal data collected for the purpose of identifying and recording information about ATs arriving into the State from designated states must be permanently deleted within 42 days after the arrival of that person, subject to possible extensions in specific circumstances.

Personal data that the State receives through PLFs, follow-up enquiries, and that State officials might make of any international passenger residing in the State must be permanently deleted within 28 days.

However, personal data collected under both the Act and SI 45 may be retained for so long as is necessary if the data is required for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of a criminal offence.

Offences

As regards the mandatory quarantine obligation, the Act provides that an AT will be guilty of an offence where he or she:

  • fails to comply with the requirement, upon arrival at an airport or port, to present themselves to a relevant or approved person or member of the Garda Síochána (the “relevant person”);
  • fails to remain at the place where they present themselves to the relevant person for transport to the facility or fail to comply with direction given by that relevant person;
  • resists detention or resists being brought to a designated facility by the relevant person, or both;
  • acts in a manner that endangers the life and health of any other person in the facility or acts with reckless disregard for the life and health of such a person;
  • leaves a designated facility before the period of quarantine is over;
  • refuses to take a COVID test at such time or times as may be designated in writing by the Minister in line with the recommendations of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the Health Service Executive; or
  • fails, without reasonable excuse, to pre-book a place in a mandatory quarantine facility.

As regards the PLF obligation, SI 45 provides that is an offence for an international passenger (unless an exemption applies) to fail to:

  • where the passenger arrives at an airport or port, provide a PLF receipt to the nominated State official in the relevant port or airport or to ensure that the information provided in such a PLF is not false or misleading;
  • where the passenger arrives other than at an airport or port, retain their PLF receipt email for 14 days after arriving and, where requested to do so, provide the PLF receipt email to a member of the Garda Síochána;
  • update the information in a PLF promptly if the international passenger is residing in the State and, within 14 days following their arrival, that information changes in any material way; or
  • provide relevant additional information to a nominated State official or a member of the Garda Síochána, if the international passenger is residing in the State and if the official or Garda seeks that information on the basis of a reasonable suspicion that the information provided in the relevant PLF is incomplete, inaccurate or misleading, or if the official or Garda seeks verification of any information in the relevant PLF.  Such checks may be made during an international passenger’s stay in the State and not merely (for example) upon arrival in the particular port or airport.

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  1. Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Requirements) (Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form) Regulations 2021 (SI 45 of 2021).
  2. If an AT tests positive during the quarantine period but is asymptomatic, he or she must remain for a further 14 days from the date of that test.  Where an AT was asymptomatic when taking the test, or subsequently became symptomatic, the AT must remain at the facility for 14 days from the date of the test or from when they developed symptoms.
  3. Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (Restrictions upon Travel to the State from Certain States) (No 4) Regulations 2021 (SI 44 of 2021).
  4. Also including Donegal, Ireland-West (“Knock”), Kerry and Waterford Airports.
  5. Also including Cobh, Killybegs, Galway and Waterford ports.

This briefing is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.

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