Irish citizens living in the UAE said Ireland's mandatory hotel quarantine has caused anguish for residents who need to travel home on compassionate or emergency grounds.
Many are calling on the government to make exceptions for people who are fully vaccinated, saying home quarantine should be an option.
Last Friday, people arriving in Ireland from countries on its red list – including the UAE – were the first batch of passengers required to complete a 12-night hotel quarantine.
Of the hundreds of people that have arrived so far, three have tested positive for Covid-19.
Teachers and other workers in the Emirates have called on the Irish government to lobby for special exemptions for those that need to travel home.
Bryan McKenna, 41, a company director in Dubai, said the hotel quarantine scheme has caused a lot of "anguish for those living away from loved ones".
“I think a lot of Irish nationals living here are trying to make an appeal for exemptions for genuine compassionate reasons,” he said.
“I have two elderly parents back home and my concern is what will happen if I need to travel back to be with them at short notice for medical reasons?
“It’s causing a lot of trouble and issues for people who live far apart from their families.
“The next worry is if flight routes in and out of the country from the UAE are going to be cancelled.”
Ronan Kelleher, 27, and his partner, Rebecca Hornby, 26, both teach in Abu Dhabi.
They are due to return to Ireland in the summer after working in the UAE for three years.
“We’re in a tricky dilemma because our school has to book a direct flight home for us as part of our contract, so we can't try and find a way around the quarantine,” he said.
“While our flights are covered, we would have to pay €2,500 (Dh10,800) for the hotel, which is a real financial burden.
"I fully understand the purpose behind it, and it will probably lead to a drop in cases, which is great, but I just think it could be managed better for citizens that have to return home like us.
“If the accommodation was free or offered at a discount price, that would be more manageable.”
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, about 10,000 Irish citizens live in the Emirates.
The UAE – along with Brazil, Austria and South Africa – is on Ireland’s red list, compiled of 33 countries concerning new Covid-19 variants.
The UK introduced a similar rule at the beginning of February.
As part of the measures in Ireland, guests undergo testing on the first and tenth days of their hotel quarantine.
However, if an individual receives a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR test taken on day 10, their period of quarantine will finish.
Teacher Trevor Buckley recently polled 1,300 Irish residents in the UAE to get their view on the new ruling.
“There was a lot of displeasure among respondents that the UAE was even on the list, considering the controlled case numbers, daily testing and successful vaccination drive,” he said.
“About 90 per cent of the people I surveyed said they planned to be vaccinated before planning any trip home.
"So the main crux of the argument is why can’t they quarantine at home in Ireland if vaccinated?”
Mr Buckley, 39, said the government should consider Irish citizens and relieve them of the financial burden.
“It could be managed better and [the government] should give due consideration to the stats and facts of each country, in regards to positive cases and vaccination roll-out,” he said.
“I understand the need to safeguard the country, it makes sense, but it is a lot to ask of people that want to return home to loved ones after such a turbulent year.”
An Irish government spokesman told The National that the mandatory hotel quarantine was introduced as "one element of Ireland's public health measures to combat the transmission of Covid-19".
“The Health (Amendment) Act 2021 provides for a number of exemptions from mandatory hotel quarantine,” he said.
“If your trip to Ireland is not in any of the categories, then you must complete mandatory hotel quarantine at a designated facility.
“If you believe that you are not required to undergo quarantine or that you should be permitted to leave quarantine early, you may request a review.”
The categories can be found on the Irish government site and requests can only be done once a person is already in quarantine, and only for the limited reasons set out in the Act.
Some of the exemptions include if you are travelling to the state for "unavoidable, imperative and time-sensitive medical reasons" certified by a registered medical practitioner.