All Irish tourists returning from any part of Italy of Spain will be asked to "restrict their movements for two weeks", Minister for Health, Simon Harris said today.
The advice comes after the situation with Covid-19 in Spain began to significantly deteriorate this week and the Department of Foreign Affairs upgraded its travel advice, urging Irish people to avoid Spain, along with Italy unless absolutely necessary.
There are now almost 3,000 cases of the virus in Spain – a rise of more than 800 in 24 hours; Italy, which is under a countrywide quarantine, has had 15,113 cases and at lest 1,000 deaths.
Mr Harris said this morning that for any countries where the government are urging Irish people not to travel to, they should also be ensuring that they monitor the spread of the virus from Irish people coming back from.
"The national public health emergency team met last night. This is the team chaired by our chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, and it's constantly looking at best practice and we obviously took a number of measures yesterday," he said.
"It decided last night, that we should now give more advice to people who are coming back into our country from affected areas, from a European perspective that's currently Spain and Italy - these are countries that were telling people not to make unnecessary travel to.
"So as of today, people who come back to Ireland from those countries will be given information at the airport, and that information will tell them to restrict their movements for the next two weeks, what that effectively means is, to not go to work, and to lessen your social context.
"They will be met by Environmental Health Officers in the airport from today, they'll be given that leaflets, and they'll be asked to, not quite self isolate, but to restrict their movements, and that is another precautionary step we're taking.
"Because the reality of the situation is this virus is fast evolving, and it obviously was really gripping Italy and still is, but it's now spread very much to Spain. And indeed, we'll have to monitor this in the coming days, as we can see worrying trends and other countries like France and Germany."
Mr Harris was questioned by Brian Dobson on Morning Ireland, however, on how thousands of Irish people were allowed to travel to Cheltenham Festival, which saw around 60,000 in close quarters attend every day.
Asked whether those returning from Cheltenham should follow similar advice as self-isolate, MR Harris said: "So I know it seems counter-intuitive to all of us here in Ireland as we're restricting mass gatherings and the likes to see such a large one taking place in the UK, but the Public Health emergency team did consider this specifically last night, and it is a statement of fact that as of now the UK is not deemed to be an affected area in the same way as Spain or Italy.
"So what will happen to all people who come back through the airport, including those from Cheltenham, is they will all receive information on things to watch out for in terms of symptoms and the likes, but there's a specific restrictions on those
"So again, I've been really clear and they're not doing something that is politically expedient but following the public health advice, and that advice is restricted movements need to apply for people returning from Spain and Italy but not currently Cheltenham."