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Covid-19: Government focuses on foreign travel restrictions

Inside Politics: Increased fines targeting die-hard holiday-makers are likely

In the scheme of things to worry about in this pandemic, ‘lock-down hair’ is pretty low on the list of priorities.

But barbers and hairdressers closed just before Christmas. and for those in need of a trim, a blow dry or colour touch-up, Leo Varadkar had some bad news yesterday – they are not likely to be opening any time soon. And as the Tánaiste announced new business supports he revealed he has put in an order for a set of hair clippers himself.

March 5th has been set as a date when some Covid-19 restrictions may be lifted if the number of cases of the virus continues to fall. The possibility people could be allowed to meet friends or family outdoors and that work on construction sites could resume have been floated.

There may be hope of easing such restrictions in the months ahead, but as Pat Leahy and Jennifer Bray report in our lead today the Government is still very much working on how to tighten controls – those surrounding international travel to be specific.


Restrictions targeting die-hard holiday-makers, including increased fines, are likely to be part of the plans.

More than two weeks after plans for mandatory quarantining in hotels was announced, officials are still grappling with how to bring these in.

The restrictions are set to apply to people – at their own cost – that return from some higher-risk destinations, others who don’t have a negative Covid-19 test result with them, and possibly passengers coming home from holidays.

The Government intends to introduce legislation next week to provide for the hotel lock-up regime, and Mr Varadkar says it will take some time afterwards to “operationalise” it.

The British government announced similar measures there yesterday.

See out lead story here.

But back to the issue of unruly manes, tresses and curls. Mr Varadkar cautioned that personal services like hairdressers would likely be reopened “much later” than May 5th.

For those like the Tánaiste considering a DIY cut at home, here's a helpful video from the BBC to show how to do it for various different styles. It dates from April last year, but 2021 is the new 2020 and all that.

Trump impeachment trial dominates US news

He may have departed the stage in Washington for the comforts of his golf resorts, but Donald Trump and the fallout from his chaotic last days in office are still dominating the political news Stateside.

Suzanne Lynch has a report on the first day of Mr Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate on incitement charges after last month’s storming of Capitol Hill. Senior Democrats have urged their Republican counterparts to convict Mr Trump.

However, with a two-thirds majority of the Senate required to do this, 17 Republicans would have to turn on the former president, and the chances of that happening are slim. The trial could conclude as early as this weekend. Suzanne's report is here, and this morning we're reporting Mr Trump lost a key opening battle, with the Senate voting that it is allowed to try him even though he has left office. See here.

Tech trials for remote Public Accounts Committee

Miriam Lord tackles trials of a different kind at home as she chronicles the difficulty of conducting the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over video link.

The board overseeing the National Children’s Hospital was served up for a remote grilling by TDs on further delays to the project and fears of increased costs.

Muted microphones dogged proceedings, and Sligo TD Marc MacSharry attended “surrounded by water and glaring out from beneath Ben Bulben like the creature from the dark lagoon”.

The PAC did manage to establish the much-needed hospital is likely to miss the target opening date of 2023 and may not be ready for its first patients until the following year. See Miriam's account here and the news report is here.

Best Reads

Leo Varadkar tells Ciarán Hancock how he wants to make sure the pandemic is more a lost year than a lost decade.

For the parents of school-goers, here's the latest on when classrooms are expected to reopen from Carl O'Brien.

Simon Carswell reveals how wily British expats returning to the Far East are using Ireland for short stays to work around Covid-19 bans on direct travel from the United Kingdom.

Today's column by Kathy Sheridan marks Stephen Donnelly's four years in Fianna Fáil during which he has gone from a simple TD with only constituents to worry about to finding himself centre stage as Minister for Health with "with more work than a political heavyweight of 20 years' standing could handle". Read her assessment of how he's doing.


Proceedings kick off in the Dáil at 10am with a Labour Party Private Members’ Motion calling for a national aggressive Covid-19 suppression strategy.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin takes Leaders’ Questions from Sinn Féin, Labour and groups of Independents from noon. This will be followed by the Order of Business and debate on the rota for Leaders’ Questions – both providing ample opportunity for the kind of rows that delay other business in the Dáil.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan will face questions on Covid-19, transport and travel in the afternoon so don’t be surprised if the Government’s yet-to-be-realised plans for mandatory hotel quarantining come up.

Committees on enterprise, social protection and finance, among others, will meet in private session.

The usual parliamentary party meetings are expected this evening.