Ireland may fine residents 2,000 euros for holidaying abroad

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Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dublin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's government is considering increasing fines for residents who break current COVID-19 restrictions to travel aboard on holiday to 2,000 euros ($2,426.00) from 500 euros, Prime Minister Micheál Martin said on Wednesday.

Non-essential travel oversees is a breach the top level of COVID-19 regulations that limit people to exercising within 5 kilometres of their homes, except for travelling for work, education or other essential purposes.

While passenger numbers are down 97% year-on-year, the government said two-thirds of Irish arrivals at airports are returning holiday-makers, which an official in Martin's department described as "a very concerning statistic".

"There's a sense 500 euros is not a sufficient disincentive to travel abroad, that will be increased and the government is considering increasing that to 2,000 euros to act as a significant deterrent," Martin told parliament.

Ireland is in the process of introducing a 14-day quarantine in hotels for all people arriving from Brazil and South Africa, and for anyone arriving without evidence of a negative coronavirus test.

Concerns over highly-infectious variants have also led Britain to seek increased penalties for those breaking movement restrictions.

($1 = 0.8244 euros)

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Barbara Lewis)