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What’s the problem with extending the country quarantine list?

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The mandatory hotel quarantine system has been in operation for more than a week but continues to cause tensions in Government. What is going on?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and others reacted angrily when an expert travel advisory group recommended that 43 countries, including the US, France, Germany and 15 other EU countries, be added to 33 countries already on the mandatory hotel quarantine list.

The leaking of the list drafted by public health officials, prior to consultations between Ministers and departments, led to a “frosty” meeting between Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Fault lines were drawn between public health concerns and the need to take sweeping measures to keep Covid-19 variants out of the country – as pushed by Donnelly – and the political, diplomatic, legal, business and operational issues – as pushed by Coveney and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar – around imposing the 12-day quarantine on visitors from major EU countries and the US.

A short-term compromise was reached with 26 non-EU countries and states being added, but Donnelly is still pushing for it to cover more countries.

What is at issue?

The aim of the quarantine system is to protect against Covid-19 variants as the country seeks to prevent a fourth wave of the disease and allow some easing of public health restrictions while vaccines are rolled out.

Coveney and others have questioned Donnelly and his officials about whether the means are legal, proportionate and practicable given the numbers of travellers, including Irish people, involved.

What could the legal problems be?

Attorney General Paul Gallagher raised concerns that the correct process under the quarantine legislation had not been followed. Given the freedom of movement rules within the EU, he also asked whether the State could force people arriving from EU countries to quarantine, but it was pointed out that Austria, an EU country, was already on the list and no issue was raised.

He also raised concerns about whether it would be legal to force EU and Irish citizens to pay for quarantine under freedom of movement rules. Health officials have argued that Irish people could bring back variants from visits overseas too and the legislation clearly covers them.

How could the measures be disproportionate?

Department of Foreign Affairs officials have questioned whether the proposed list goes too far when the aim was to stop variants of concern, but health officials said there are now heightened risks in EU states, including from a variant in France that appears undetectable by the PCR test.

What are the practical problems?

The contract with hotel operator Tifco offers 650 rooms with a capacity to increase this to 2,500 rooms. But Coveney and Varadkar have raised concerns about the massive influx of travellers who would be subject to quarantine if EU countries and the US were added to the list.

How could these issues be overcome?

Extra hotel rooms could be sought under a new contract. A more radical proposal could involve applying a cap on arrivals, as Australia has imposed, though this is seen as a last resort given how politically unrealistic it would be to sell to a country with a large diaspora.

So how will matters be resolved?

This is hard to say given the divisions and tensions in Government. At the heart of this dispute is the fact that the quarantine system was set up without being fully thought through and with the Department of Health unusually being charged with its operation.

One source said some in Government were never really enthusiastic about the quarantine system, seeing it as an act of populist appeasement. Health officials, on the other hand, see it as a key public health measure to stop variants entering the State that could undermine the vaccination programme.

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Johnson rules out face masks as UK’s daily Covid cases rise above 50,000

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Daily coronavirus cases in Britain have risen above 50,000 for the first time since July, but Boris Johnson said he will not bring back compulsory face coverings or introduce vaccine passports.

Speaking in Northern Ireland, the prime minister said his government was holding firm to its policy of no legal restrictions introduced in July, but was watching the numbers carefully.

“The numbers of infections are high but we are within the parameters of what the predictions were,” he said. “We are sticking with our plan.”

Mr Johnson acknowledged the “patchiness” of Britain’s vaccination programme, urging people to come forward for their booster jabs as soon as they are invited to do so. But Labour leader Keir Starmer said the government should beef up the programme, ensure that more children were vaccinated and aim to deliver half a million jabs a day.

“The government said that the vaccine would be the security wall against the virus and now the government is letting that wall crumble,” he said.

“We’ve seen those that most need it not able to get the jab they need. Only, I think, 17 per cent of children have got the vaccine. And the booster programme has slowed down so much that at this rate we’re not going to complete it until spring of next year. So the government needs to change these, it needs to get a grip. I think it needs to drive those numbers up to at least 500,000 vaccines a day.”

Vaccine passports

The British Medical Association (BMA) accused the government of “wilful negligence” in not bringing back some restrictions, and of failing to learn the lessons of a parliamentary report last week about its handling of the pandemic. The association’s chairman, Chaand Nagpaul, said doctors could say categorically that it was time to bring back compulsory face masks and to introduce vaccine passports.

“By the health secretary’s own admission we could soon see 100,000 cases a day, and we now have the same number of weekly Covid deaths as we had during March, when the country was in lockdown,” he said.

“It is, therefore, incredibly concerning that he is not willing to take immediate action to save lives and protect the NHS. ”

Health secretary Sajid Javid warned this week that some restrictions could be introduced if the public failed to exercise caution and to take up vaccination offers. He acknowledged that Conservative MPs could show an example by wearing masks in the House of Commons, but house leader Jacob Rees-Mogg on Thursday rejected the suggestion.

Crowded spaces

“There is no advice to wear face masks in workplaces. The advice on crowded spaces is with crowded spaces with people that you don’t know. We on this side know each other,” he told the SNP’s Pete Wishart.

“Now, it may be that he doesn’t like mixing with his own side, wants to keep himself in his personal bubble. He may find the other members of the SNP – who I normally find extraordinarily charming…but we on this side have a more convivial fraternal spirit, and for our calling the guidance of her majesty’s government.”

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Britney Spears and fiancé Sam Asghari are spotted house hunting at Jeffree Star’s mansion

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Britney Spears and fiancé Sam Asghari have been spotted house hunting – and the $16.5million mansion in the upscale Hidden Hills neighborhood in Calabasas they’re considering belongs to none other than makeup mogul Jeffree Star. 

Britney continues to make strides in regaining her freedom and was seen by DailyMail.com Tuesday arriving at the private entrance to the Hidden Hills estate, only accessible to its A-list residents, including Drake, The Kardashians and Miley Cyrus

Britney, 39, drove her white Mercedes-Benz to the gates while 27-year-old Sam, dressed in short camo shorts and and a tight-fitted blue t-shirt, got out of the car and went to the gatehouse. 

They were greeted by a real estate agent who gave them access, arriving at the property at 2pm and viewing the house for about 35 minutes.

The house, purchased by Jeffree in 2019 for $14.6 million, has seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms and boasts sweeping views of the Southern California hills. 

DailyMail.com spotted Britney Spears and fiancé Sam Asghari house hunting Tuesday in the upscale Hidden Hills neighborhood in Calabasas, California

DailyMail.com spotted Britney Spears and fiancé Sam Asghari house hunting Tuesday in the upscale Hidden Hills neighborhood in Calabasas, California

Sam, dressed in short camo shorts and and a tight-fitted blue t-shirt, got out of the car and went to the gatehouse

Sam, dressed in short camo shorts and and a tight-fitted blue t-shirt, got out of the car and went to the gatehouse

The house, purchased by Jeffree in 2019 for $14.6 million, has seven bedrooms, 13 Bathrooms and boasts sweeping views of the Southern California hills

The house, purchased by Jeffree in 2019 for $14.6 million, has seven bedrooms, 13 Bathrooms and boasts sweeping views of the Southern California hills

They were greeted by a Real Estate Agent who gave them access, arriving at the property at 2pm and viewing the house for 35 minutes

They were greeted by a Real Estate Agent who gave them access, arriving at the property at 2pm and viewing the house for 35 minutes

Britney drove her white Mercedes-Benz to the gates while Sam, dressed in short camo shorts and and a tight-fitted blue t-shirt, got out of the car and went to the gatehouse

Britney drove her white Mercedes-Benz to the gates while Sam, dressed in short camo shorts and and a tight-fitted blue t-shirt, got out of the car and went to the gatehouse

Britney drove her white Mercedes-Benz to the gates while Sam, dressed in short camo shorts and and a tight-fitted blue t-shirt, got out of the car and went to the gatehouse

Sam, 27, has been by Britney's side throughout her conservatorship battle and as her soon-to-be husband it's only right he accompany her on her house hunting adventures

Sam, 27, has been by Britney’s side throughout her conservatorship battle and as her soon-to-be husband it’s only right he accompany her on her house hunting adventures 

The engaged couple were seen arriving at the private entrance to the Hidden Hills estate only accessible to its A-list residents, including Drake, The Kardashians, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Lopez

The engaged couple were seen arriving at the private entrance to the Hidden Hills estate only accessible to its A-list residents, including Drake, The Kardashians, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Lopez

The house hunting comes days after Britney wrote a scathing Instagram caption, in which she told her relatives they should be worried if she ever gives an interview

The house hunting comes days after Britney wrote a scathing Instagram caption, in which she told her relatives they should be worried if she ever gives an interview

The Jeffree Star Cosmetics founder listed his mansion in July this year with plans to move to Wyoming full-time. 

Jeffree Star listed his mansion in July this year with plans to move to Wyoming full-time

Jeffree Star listed his mansion in July this year with plans to move to Wyoming full-time

The YouTuber has had a career embroiled in controversy and made the move to his 70-acre ranch in Wyoming, where he’d already been living part-time, to focus on his mental health.  

‘I need to get away from California and its day-to-day atmosphere,’ he said in a YouTube video. ‘I think I’ve gotten all that I can out of this state.’ 

And while he’s ready to start anew, so is Britney, after her father Jamie was removed as conservator of her multimillion dollar estate  last month. 

According to the listing, the 21,000sqft French Normandy Estate sits on 2.82 acres and is nestled at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac.  

The home boasts ‘superior quality amenities throughout’ which include a home theater with custom seating, large game room with wet bar, two story gym with steam & sauna, complete home spa, and a wine tasting room & refrigerated wine cellar. 

According to the listing, the 21,000 square foot French Normandy Estate sits on 2.82 acres and is nestled at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac

According to the listing, the 21,000 square foot French Normandy Estate sits on 2.82 acres and is nestled at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac

Outside, the grounds feature a sparkling pool, spa, fire pit, two barbecue centers and two covered patios

Outside, the grounds feature a sparkling pool, spa, fire pit, two barbecue centers and two covered patios

A sunken outdoor living room with a fire pit in the middle is surrounded by the luxurious pool and fits at least a dozen guests

A sunken outdoor living room with a fire pit in the middle is surrounded by the luxurious pool and fits at least a dozen guests

The home boasts a  large gourmet kitchen with two islands that opens to the family room, two beautiful custom offices, large game room with wet bar, craft room, home automation system, safe room

The home boasts a  large gourmet kitchen with two islands that opens to the family room, two beautiful custom offices, large game room with wet bar, craft room, home automation system, safe room

The home movie theater is beyond and impressive and perfect for entertaining guests who visit Britney and Sam

The home movie theater is beyond and impressive and perfect for entertaining guests who visit Britney and Sam 

The home has an expansive wine cellar with a two-seater table for any wine-loving connoisseurs to enjoy

The home has an expansive wine cellar with a two-seater table for any wine-loving connoisseurs to enjoy 

The listing states, ‘Additional features include a large gourmet kitchen with two islands that opens to the family room, two beautiful custom offices, large game room with wet bar, craft room, home automation system, safe room, and sculptural glass elevator.’

The main house has five bedroom suits, including the luxurious master suite, perfect for Britney and her new fiancé. 

Outside, the grounds feature a sparkling pool, spa, fire pit, two barbecue centers and two covered patios. 

The house hunting comes days after Britney wrote a scathing Instagram caption, in which she told her relatives they should be worried if she ever gives an interview.

As she continues to adjust to life as a free woman, the star sent a clear message to those who profited from her ‘abusive’ conservatorship, controlled by her father Jamie, for the past 13 years. 

‘Lord have mercy on my family’s souls if I ever do an interview!!!’ she told her more than 35.4 million Instagram followers on Friday. 

The huge mansion even has a sculptural glass elevator to take you between floors

The huge mansion even has a sculptural glass elevator to take you between floors 

The home also offers a 4,700-square-foot underground garage for more than seven cars

The home also offers a 4,700-square-foot underground garage for more than seven cars

The home boasts ‘superior quality & amenities throughout’ which include a home theater with custom seating, large game room with wet bar, two story gym with steam & sauna, complete home spa, and a wine tasting room & refrigerated wine cellar

Huge doors from an elegant seating area lead out into the pool area for indoor and outdoor fun

Huge doors from an elegant seating area lead out into the pool area for indoor and outdoor fun 

An entire area is dedicated to gaming, with classic gaming machines seen in an elegant room with an oversized chandelier

An entire area is dedicated to gaming, with classic gaming machines seen in an elegant room with an oversized chandelier 

If Britney moves to the estate in Hidden Hills, she'll be neighbors with other A-listers the likes of Drake, The Kardashians and Miley Cyrus

If Britney moves to the estate in Hidden Hills, she’ll be neighbors with other A-listers the likes of Drake, The Kardashians and Miley Cyrus 

For more than a year, Britney has been calling for her father to be fired as her conservator and for an end to the conservatorship which she's called 'abusive'

For more than a year, Britney has been calling for her father to be fired as her conservator and for an end to the conservatorship which she’s called ‘abusive’

In addition to stating she is ‘staying clear’ of the entertainment business for now, Britney confessed navigating her independence has been hard. 

‘I’ll just be honest and say I’ve waited so long to be free from the situation I’m in… and now that it’s here I’m scared to do anything because I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake!!’ she said.    

For more than a year, Britney has been calling for her father to be fired as her conservator and for an end to the conservatorship which she’s called ‘abusive.’

She has said that she’s ‘afraid ‘ of her dad and declared that she would not perform again until he was no longer in charge of the conservatorship he’s been overseeing since her much-publicized breakdown in 2008.

One of her most heart-wrenching revelations came during a tearful phone appearance at Judge Penny’s court last June when she said that she wanted to have a baby with her fiancé, personal trainer Sam Asghari, but the strict conservatorship wouldn’t allow her to remove her IUD birth control.

‘I feel ganged up on and bullied and alone,’ Britney told the court during that emotional statement. ‘I just want my life back.’

She also told the judge that she felt ‘enslaved’ by her dad, whom she, added, ‘should be in jail.’

Britney and Sam are looking forward to starting their lives together now that her father Jamie has been removed as conservator of her estate

Sam has spoken out about Britney's conservatorship and denounced her father Jamie's right to control his pop star daughter

Britney and Sam are looking forward to starting their lives together now that her father Jamie has been removed as conservator of her estate  

For more than a year, Britney has been calling for her father to be fired as her conservator and for an end to the conservatorship which she's called 'abusive'

For more than a year, Britney has been calling for her father to be fired as her conservator and for an end to the conservatorship which she’s called ‘abusive’

Fans hold signs that read 'Fry Jamie Fry' and 'I want my life back' outside of the courtroom last month as Jamie was removed as her conservator

Fans hold signs that read ‘Fry Jamie Fry’ and ‘I want my life back’ outside of the courtroom last month as Jamie was removed as her conservator 

Last year, at her father’s request, the conservatorship (the one dealing with Britney’s personal affairs, not the conservatorship controlling her finances) was temporarily transferred from Jamie to her long-time caregiver Jodi Montgomery.

While he blamed his stepping down on health issues, Jamie’s decision came amid accusations that he had gotten into an altercation with Britney’s then 14 year-old son Sean Preston, now 16.

Kevin Federline – Britney’s ex and the father of Sean and his brother Jayden James, 15 – made a police report and took out a restraining order against his former father-in-law after the incident in which, reportedly, a ‘very angry’ Jamie broke down the door of a room Sean had locked himself in and ‘shook’ the frightened teen.

Finally last month, a judge  suspended Jamie as the conservator of Britney’s personal life and $60 million estate after 13 years, appointing accountant John Zabel as a temporary conservator. 

The suspension comes as allegations of his mistreatment of his daughter – including secretly recording her calls and messages – have ramped up the furor over his conservatorship.

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Pharmacists call to be involved in Covid-19 booster vaccine rollout

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Pharmacists should be involved in the rollout of the booster vaccine campaign, the general-secretary of the Irish Pharmacy Union has said.

Darragh O’Loughlin said pharmacists had been included in the original plans as vaccinators but were not included until the summer.

“When we did start vaccinating we saw tremendous demand from people to get their vaccine in a local pharmacy – pharmacies were inundated with people looking to get vaccinated,” he told Newstalk’s Breakfast Briefing.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) this week approved the extension of Covid-19 booster shots to people over the age of 60.

A number of prominent GPs have criticised the HSE’s plan to rely on family doctors for administering boosters to older patients.

However, plans announced on Wednesday did not contain any reference to pharmacies, Mr O’Loughlin said.

A number of prominent GPs have criticised the HSE’s plan to rely on family doctors for administering boosters to older patients.

Navan GP Ruairí Hanley said the system “cannot cope” with providing boosters to everyone aged over 60 in the coming months.

“That will simply prove impossible in the context of flu season and the existing pressures on the system,” he told The Irish Times on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Mr O’Loughlin said it would make perfect sense for pharmacies to be involved in the booster programme as there are 1,000 pharmacies in the country delivering the vaccine every week with people still coming forward every day to get vaccinated,.

“It makes no sense that as we move into the booster phase of the programme we wouldn’t be involved in delivering those boosters”.

“It looks like GPs are going to be expected to pick up the bulk of the work – despite the fact that the GP system is already under such pressure – and vaccination centres will be used as well.

“We obviously aren’t saying vaccination centres shouldn’t be used, and we aren’t saying GPs shouldn’t be involved. We’re just saying that in a programme of this size and a campaign of this size, where we will want 800,000 people between the ages of 60 upwards to get vaccinated with a booster dose, it makes no sense to exclude 1,000 vaccination locations around the country”.

Meanwhile, oncologist Prof Seamus O’Reilly, speaking on Morning Ireland, called for a targeted social media campaign to encourage the unvaccinated.

Such a campaign had been undertaken by CervicalCheck and he felt it would help to address the concerns of the unvaccinated rather than berate them.

The virus was going to be an issue for years to come as new variants emerged worldwide.

This means vaccination programmes have to be accelerated, he said, otherwise waiting lists were going to grow as care was diverted to Covid cases.

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