The Cabinet has signed-off on primary legislation governing the introduction of a mandatory hotel quarantine for incoming passengers into the country.

The legislation, which was evaluated during an incorporeal meeting tonight, sets out a financial penalty of €4,000, as well as a possible month in prison, for first-time offenders who do not adhere to the mandatory quarantine rules. 

Under the UK equivalent laws, the fine is around €2,000.

A second offence would see fines of up to €4,500 or three months in prison, or both. A third offence would see fines of up to €5,000 or six months in prison, or both.

The move will be in place initially for those arriving in the State from 20 countries and anyone who does not have a negative test for Covid-19.

It is agreed that those who stay in mandatory quarantine for 14 days will have to pay for their stay and will take a number of tests for Covid-19 during that time.

Private security firms are likely to be involved in the day-to-day running of the facilities, but gardaí will have a role if any laws are breached.

Arrivals from 20 countries including Austria, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and 17 African countries will have to quarantine in hotels here.

The legislation to underpin the system is likely to take two to three weeks to pass all stages in the Oireachtas.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that while final decisions have not yet been made, he expects the easing of Covid-19 restrictions next month to be "extremely limited".

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He told the Fine Gael parliamentary party that schools will be reopened in a phased manner, with assessments taken every two to three weeks. 

There was some strong criticism of the roll-out and operation of the new vaccine centres from TDs and Senators.

Mr Varadkar told them he acknowledged the need for more detailed information and communications for those in line for vaccines, which will be put in place. 

Meanwhile, Independent TD Cathal Berry has called for the Defence Forces to be used to provide security at hotels being used for mandatory quarantine, instead of private security firms.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Mr Berry said private firms would not have the same enforcement powers that members of the Defence Forces would.

He cited the example of Australia, where private security has been used, adding that this has resulted in a "discipline breakdown".

Mr Berry, a former member of the elite Army Ranger Wing, said the army provides an "assertive posture" that would "act as a deterrent" for people to break the rules.

"This is a very disciplined, highly motivated outfit that is more suitable for this kind of work. From a deterrent point of view this sends all the right signals that Ireland is taking quarantine rules seriously."