The Department of Health has recruited the Red Cow Moran Hotel in West Dublin to provide a mandatory hotel quarantine, increasing the number of rooms available to more than 300.
The government battled a shortage of rooms after adding 16 countries to the list last Thursday, a move that prompted increased demand that led to the temporary suspension of bookings.
There is no shortage of hotel capacity in the city given the hotel sector has been shut down since January, although some hoteliers will not seek the business due to the negative publicity surrounding the chaotic introduction of the program.
The Red Cow Hotel on Naas Road, near the M50 interchange, is over 12 miles from Dublin Airport. There was no comment from the hotel on Sunday when asked about its MHQ service.
The 16 new countries on the MHQ’s list include the United States, Canada and several European states, including France and Belgium, fueling concern over the potential for large numbers of returning Irish citizens to overwhelm the system.
The high demand in the first few weeks comes despite hopes that the MHQ would deter people from traveling to the state, with the government’s goal being to minimize exposure to variants of the coronavirus.
As the government seeks to stabilize the system, the Bonnington Hotel in north Dublin has touted itself as a potential MHQ location.
James McGettigan, manager of the Bonnington, located in Whitehall near Dublin Airport and formerly known as The Regency, said the hotel was not in talks with the government but had raised the issue with officials. “Our hotel is able to help the MHQ, but we are awaiting confirmation,” he said.
“We were talking [with] the HSE previously regarding the use of our conference center as a vaccination center and for hotel quarantine. “
Despite the increase in the number of inbound passengers now in quarantine, a senior hotel industry official expressed surprise that the system was overwhelmed so quickly: “It’s very difficult to understand how you can have so many hotels in the Dublin region at a very low or almost zero level. occupancy and we do not have enough rooms for hotel quarantine. “
But a senior hotelier said many in the industry were reluctant to come forward due to complaints about the system from people confined to hotels for 14 days. “For the hotel industry, mandatory quarantine is problematic and therefore some hotels will not be involved in the process,” he said.
Hotel owners feared “brand damage” from quarantined people contacting the media to complain about cramped conditions and poor food. “I just think the hotels looked at this and said no thanks,” the hotelier said.
“You have to get someone out of their room for a 15-minute break. It needs to be done correctly and safely, so it’s not as easy as it sounds. “
There has been no comment on its MHQ service from Tifco, the first hotel group to be recruited by the government. David O’Connell of Tifco insisted that all queries go to the Department of Health.
Another hotel industry source, who declined to be named, said there was no rush to accept HMQ contracts. “The worldwide experience on this, especially from Australia, has probably given hotels the heebie-jeebies.”
Dr Phillip J Smyth, director of Shannon College of Hotel Management at NUI Galway, said concerns about hotels’ reputation were a key factor.
Citing conversations with hoteliers but not speaking on behalf of the industry, he said short-term gains through state contracts were not necessarily attractive.
“They don’t stand in line for it and the main worry is about the legacy issues… It’s more of a perception that exists. [among international customers] that these hotels were used for quarantine, that Ireland as a destination is quarantining people, ”he said.
“They accept it’s necessary, but they don’t necessarily want to be associated with it.”
The expansion of the MHQ raises concerns in the Garda. A security source said there was concern about the potential strain on Garda’s resources if lax security in an expanded program led more people to flee quarantine.
“If you increase the facilities without increasing the security, your numbers will increase and you will have to spend more time chasing them.”
Gardaí also had health and safety concerns about the potential exposure of people considered to be such a threat to public health that they were forced to enter mandatory quarantine, the source said.