An Irish nurse who is originally from the Philippines and needs to travel home to see her critically ill mother says she is “devastated” by the news she will have to pay nearly €1,900 to quarantine in a hotel when she returns to Ireland.
Menchie Caballo, who moved here from the Philippines in 2002 and works in a nursing home in Dublin, has been trying to make travel arrangements to visit her mother since she became seriously ill nearly three weeks ago.
On Thursday, she discovered her country of birth had been added to the Government’s list of states for mandatory hotel quarantine. The Philippines is one of the 26 non-EU countries added this week to the list of high-risk areas that necessitate a quarantine period on arrival in Ireland to prevent the possible spread of Covid-19 variants.
Ms Caballo has already sent more than €12,000 to the Philippines in recent days to cover the cost of her mother’s emergency care for chronic kidney disease, pneumonia, cerebrovascular disease and an infected wound on her leg. Her family decided not to accept the doctor’s recommendation that her mother be intubated and placed in ICU and instead requested she be discharged and brought her home to be with loved ones.
“She keeps asking me when will I be getting home,” Ms Caballo told The Irish Times. “I’ve explained it’s difficult with Covid but she keeps asking. My mum is having a really hard time, she keeps having episodes. My family believe she’s waiting for me.”
Aside from the financial implications of quarantine in Ireland, Ms Caballo is also struggling to secure permission to enter the Philippines. When she became an Irish citizen in 2011 she had to renounce her Filipino citizenship and foreign nationals are not currently allowed to enter the country because of Covid-19 restrictions.
She applied for an emergency visa from the Filipino embassy in London but was told this would take 15 days so has made an emergency appeal through the Filipino consulate in Dublin.
“I’m doing my best to get a visa but I’m not a dual citizen. My sister has called me crying, my mum is conscious and wants to be at home with her family. I’m the eldest and I’m the only one living abroad, I want the whole family to be around her. She’s suffered so much, that’s why I want to go home.
“When I saw the news yesterday about the quarantine here in Ireland and the amount it would cost I was devastated. I’ve already spent so mum on my mum’s care, I had to borrow from my friends. I’m spending too much already. I have lots of friends who will help me but I’m worried about what will happen. I just want to hold my mum and take care of her, that’s the only thing that matters now.”
‘Not a red light’
George Samuel, an Irish citizen originally from Nigeria who was also planning to visit his mother this month, says he was “very disappointed” to learn Nigeria had been included on the mandatory hotel quarantine list. Mr Samuel questioned why Nigeria had been included on the list, noting that only 106 new cases and one death had been recorded in the country on April 1st.
“Nigeria is not a red light country, what data is the Government using? I was very disappointed to see that to be honest, it’s heart breaking really. It doesn’t make any sense that Nigeria is on the list for mandatory hotel quarantine. Why would they include us?”
To date, Nigeria has recorded a total 162,997 cases of the virus with 2,058 deaths, according to data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. In February, a case of the B1525 Covid-19 variant, known as the Nigerian variant, was found in Ireland.
Mr Samuel says he has tried visiting his mother four times since early 2020 but that he keeps cancelling the trip because of the pandemic. “She’s been sick for the whole last year and I’ve promised her I’d come home. I’m confused now, I don’t know what to do. Can the Government tell us how many Nigerians who have come into Ireland in the past year were Covid positive? If they want to keep Nigeria on that list they need to provide the data to explain why.”