Ireland’s foreign affairs minister has defended the country’s handling of international travel during the pandemic.

Simon Coveney said that the Government’s measures have had a “huge impact” on curbing the spread of the virus from international travellers.

He said that the number of people passing through the country’s airports is 3% of the numbers compared to last January.

“So it’s 97% down and (it is) continuing to fall,” Mr Coveney said.

The Government is to introduce new measures around travel, including mandatory quarantine at a designated facility for people who arrive in Ireland without a negative PCR test taken in the past 72 hours.

Travellers arriving into Ireland without a negative test could face a fine of 2,500 euros or a six-month prison sentence.

Mr Coveney said the Government recognised that further restrictions were needed on people arriving into the country.

“Some of that mandatory quarantine has to happen in State-run facilities where people are required to effectively be in a hotel for 14 days, by law,” he told RTE Morning Ireland.

“The political decision to do that has only taken place in the last couple of weeks, and there is primary legislation required for elements of that and I hope that opposition parties will support Government now in getting that legislation through quickly.

“If the Dail cooperates on that, there is no reason why it can’t be done very quickly in terms of the primary legislation, specifically required for that mandatory quarantine.”

Mr Coveney also said there is a difference between quarantine and self-isolation, saying there is some limited flexibility around quarantine.

But he said that it was up to the Government to clearly define that.

“Quarantine means they have to stay in their home, and the difference between that and self-isolation is; self-isolation you have to lock yourself in your room and separate yourself from the rest of the household which in quarantine is slightly different to that,” he added.

“Quarantining at home, you restrict your movement to your home.”

On Tuesday, Ireland reported a record 101 Covid-19 deaths, the highest number in a single day since the pandemic began.

An additional 879 new cases of the virus were also confirmed on Tuesday.

It came after the Oireachtas Health Committee heard that more than 1,500 people have died with Covid-19 in nursing homes in Ireland.

A total of 1,543 staff and residents in care homes have lost their lives during the pandemic – 369 in the last month alone.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said on Wednesday that it was “an awful situation”.

“We know that this virus targets, or is most deadly with those who are older, particularly those who are over 85 years of age,” Mr Donnelly said.

“In spite of the enormous work done by the people who work in the nursing homes, by the HSE, in spite of all of the protections that were put in place, and the huge work that was done, the contagious nature of this virus means it did get into nursing homes, and is in nursing homes.

“The toll that it inflicts is awful, and it is heartbreaking.

“101 fatalities reported last night, that is 101 families mourning.

“In these times it’s even worse, because not only are people mourning their loved ones, their family, their friends, we can’t mourn in the way that we usually do.

“It is truly heartbreaking.”