The Government has removed five countries from its travel-advisory 'green list', following a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in those nations.
The move means that any Irish people who are in Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Monaco, or San Marino will now have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the country.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the decisions had been made to "keep the incidence of the virus low" in Ireland.
He said that the five countries had slipped below Ireland's minimum criteria for inclusion on the list, which exempts travellers from the requirement to self-isolate.
Malta, for example, has seen a spike in cases in recent days. Its 14-day rate of infection per 1,000 is now 26.7 — far above Ireland's 7.54. The same rate in Cyprus is now 13.4.
Mr Martin said that there would be no countries added to the list at this time, with the list updated every two weeks.
However, he reiterated the advice that people should not travel abroad unless it is absolutely essential.
"There are no additions to the list, and we continue to advise people that the safest thing they can do, in terms of their own health and the health of the country, is to stay in Ireland," he said.
The Taoiseach made the announcement as the Government, for a second time, postponed moving to phase four of the roadmap for reopening, saying that the decision had been made based on a rise in Covid-19 cases.
"I wish that I was in a position to share better news today, but I am not," said Mr Martin.
The removal of the five countries will not impact greatly on Irish tourists or the travel industry, the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) said.
ITAA president Michael Doorley said there is no appetite for travel overseas at the moment and the emergence of Covid-19 clusters in parts of Europe was “dampening” demand.
“Consumers haven't an appetite for travel at the moment," he told the Irish Examiner. "You could have 25 green countries, and there still wouldn't be an appetite to travel.
“Everyone is of the same attitude: 'we're not going to travel this year, but hope to travel next year'. So reducing the number of green-list countries is not going to impinge much on travel agents.”
Mr Doorley said people were travelling in “tiny numbers” and gave an example of 37 people on a flight to Malaga last Friday, adding that he didn’t think many Irish holidaymakers had travelled to Cyprus or Malta.
“Cyprus and Malta would have been popular holiday destinations if people were of a frame of mind to travel, but they are not at the moment,” he said.
Travel agents, he said, were availing of Government grants and supports as they prepared to write off 2020 and focus on next year's market.
“Any travel agent you speak to will tell you they have written off 2020 as a year where nothing will happen,” he said.
“What most companies are trying to do is hibernate for four to five months and then hopefully open up again for next year.”
The ITAA, he said, endorsed the removal of countries from the green list in the interests of “keeping people healthy and safe”.