The Justice Minister says Government needs to move rapidly against the new variant of concern.
The European Commission is proposing member states ban air travel from the southern African region due to the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19, known as B.1.1.529.
Here, a decision on banning flights from affected countries is expected to be made today, with ministers meeting to discuss to the situation.
The Department of Health has said it is "deeply concerned" about the variant, which has been detected in southern Africa and Hong Kong to date.
Experts say the new strain is ‘the worst we've seen so far' with 32 mutations – a number of which could make the virus resistant to currently available vaccines and natural immunity.
With fresh travel restrictions on the cards, it's possible the Munster rugby players - who are currently in South Africa - would have to quarantine upon their return to Ireland if hotel quarantine is reintroduced.
📰We all are safe & well in Pretoria.
We are working with URC on the ongoing situation relating to Covid-19 & will provide an update once we know more #MunsterInSA 🇿🇦 #SUAF🔴
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) November 26, 2021
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Minister Helen McEntee said we're all still learning about this new variant.
She said: "It's only in the last few days this new variant seems to have emerged.
"While we're still learning about it, the early indications would show this is potentially more transmissible and potentially more able to evade the vaccination.
"I do think we need to act quickly here."
The EU introduced an 'emergency brake' mechanism when it reopened to tourists, so they could act quickly to put in place temporary travel bans quickly if new variants of concerns emerged.
Minister McEntee said that's what the bloc's now looking at introducing for countries where this new variant has been detected.
She stressed officials will work to make Irish citizens will be able to return home if a travel ban is introduced.
She said: "If we need to move quickly here - be it with the introduction of hotel quarantine - then I think that's something we need to do. That would allow people to come home, but it would put that extra layer [of protection in].
"When something like this happens, we've seen how quickly variants travel and move - and the implications that has had. We've learned from this pandemic as time has gone on."
The so-called 'emergency brake' rule would not apply to EU citizens, long-term EU residents and certain categories of essential travellers.
However, the EU has said these should be subject to “appropriate testing and quarantine measures, even if fully vaccinated”.
Each member state must make its own decision on whether to implement the emergency break.