TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has insisted that holidays abroad will be off the cards for Irish people for at least the "next number of months" due to Covid-19.
He said his Government will be taking a "very tough line" on foreign travel, at least until the vaccination programme is properly rolled out.
"Given the variant in particular, it is very important that people would adhere to these regulations. We don't want to add to the difficulties and complexities of this virus by importing mutations and new variants of the virus.
"It's very important that we deal with that in the short term."
He added: "I think the variant and the arrival of the variant has given an added momentum and importance to the issue of border controls. Border controls are important in terms of reducing the volume of variants and delaying variants coming into the country."
On Wednesday, Mr Martin told the Dáil that the Government intends to increase fines for breaches of regulations on non-essential foreign travel to €2,000, to reflect the fact that the current €500 fines do not seem to be a sufficient deterrent.
When asked when the Irish public can expect to travel abroad again, Martin said: "We're certainly saying for 2021, in terms of non-essential foreign travel, because of these variants of concern, and the impact that they can have on health and mortality and particularly the potential to undermine the vaccination programme, that we're taking a very tough line over the next number of months in relation to foreign travel. It's very difficult."