The Tánaiste has said he hopes legislation on quarantine hotels in Ireland will be published next week.

Leo Varadkar was speaking after Britain's Health Secretary said the UK is to introduce tighter border controls next week against new variants of the coronavirus, requiring hotel quarantine for arrivals from high-risk countries.

Travellers found to have given false information about being in a "red list" country 10 days before travel could receive up to 10 years in prison.

Mr Varadkar said this potential jail term "was a bit extreme".

He added he did not want to see Ireland acting as a back door to another country. 

The Tánaiste has also said that advice which came from the National Public Health Emergency Team with regards to travel has been "a bit contradictory". 

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime said while NPHET have consistently advocated mandatory hotel quarantine, at the same time they said that people who come into the country should just restrict their movements, in most cases.

Mr Varadkar also said people who would be subject to mandatory hotel quarantine here would be charged and would need to book ahead. 

Reacting to Mr Varadkar's criticism of NPHET, the co-leader of the Social Democrats Róisín Shortall said: "The Government has always made it clear they wouldn't entertain proper travel restrictions and sent a clear message to NPHET to that effect. The Tánaiste now seems to be trying to justify the Government's inaction."

Sinn Féin's health spokesperson David Cullinane said Mr Varadkar needed to stop "passing the buck and blaming others".

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Earlier Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan told RTÉ News that the Government would continue to coordinate with Britain to make sure there is effective cooperation.

He said more countries apart from Brazil and South Africa will be added to the mandatory quarantine list, but the system needs to get up and running first. 

Mr Varadkar said the Government is working on a revised version of the "Living with Covid-19" plan which will be announced in the week of 22 February.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the country has some way to go before the current level of restrictions can be eased, adding the Government would bring "greater clarity" on this towards the middle of this month.

When asked about criticism from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation on the pressures and risks facing frontline healthcare workers and whether they could be given special payments, like in the UK, Mr Martin said the Government will be looking at all options in relation to health care workers.

"But primarily, I think we have to make sure they have the supports that all hospitals require right now," he added. 

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said preparations to introduce mandatory quarantine in hotels are at an advanced stage and will be introduced in the coming weeks and, in the meantime, passenger locator forms and PCR tests as well as home quarantine will continue.

She added that the Government is engaging with both Northern Ireland and UK officials to prevent people travelling though Dublin to try and evade a PCR test or other entry requirements in the UK. 

Govt has no strategy to deal with international travel, says Sinn Féin

Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty said the Government now has no strategy to deal with International travel.

The party wants all arrivals into the country to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days.

The Donegal TD said he feared Ireland will now be used as a back door for visitors from red list countries seeking to enter Britain.

Labour leader Alan Kelly said the Government now faces a choice between locking up "our own people" or quarantining people entering the country.

He accused the coalition of having a haphazard approach and said the Living With Covid plan was no longer working.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Kelly called for a greater emphasis on ensuring that people are allowed to work from home and he said the Covid-19 case numbers are not low enough to enable schools return at this point.

People Before Profit's Richard Boyd-Barrett reiterated calls on the Government to implement a zero-Covid strategy and said it had still not learned the lessons from the "disastrous decision" to open up the economy before Christmas.

This was evidenced by the announcement by Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien that construction will reopen in March, he said.

He added that the key to making decisions was when the virus was under control and not to pick arbitrary dates.

Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane, Karen Creed, Fergal Bowers