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Flights and passenger ferries from Britain to Ireland suspended for 48 hours from midnight

Several countries have stopped travel from the UK as a new strain of coronavirus spreads.

Image: Shutterstock/Peter Krocka

Updated Dec 20th 2020, 8:49 PM

FLIGHTS AND PASSENGER ferries from Britain to Ireland will be suspended for 48 hours in an effort to stop the spread of a new coronavirus strain to Ireland.

The restrictions will come into effect at midnight and will remain in place for an initial period of 48 hours before being reviewed. 

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said that flights will not be coming from Britain and only ferries carrying haulage will be permitted.

“The airlines will not be flying. We need haulage coming in to keep our shelves full of food and so on, but other passengers will be restricted,” Ryan said, speaking on Virgin Media News.

“We have to do this because the UK government themselves has put in place very strict new restrictions on movement,” he said.

Ryan said that Ireland would follow the restrictions on flights put in place by other European countries ”on a precautionary basis”.

He said that mechanisms will be set up to repatriate any passengers who are in transit or find themselves in difficulties.

The decision will be reviewed by Cabinet on Tuesday morning.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the government said that “in response to the identification of a new strain of Covid-19 in the South-East of England, the Government has announced a ban on all flights arriving into Ireland from Great Britain with effect from midnight tonight”.

“The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Health had detailed discussions on Sunday and announced that in the interests of Public Health, people in Britain, regardless of nationality, should not travel to Ireland, by air or by sea,” the statement said.

The government intends to coordinate with authorities in Northern Ireland as the restrictions are put in place.

Arrangements are being put in place to facilitate the repatriation of Irish residents on short trips to Great Britain and planning to return in the coming days, as well as international travellers to Ireland who are transiting through Great Britain.” 

“Ferry crossings between Ireland and Great Britain will continue in order to keep essential supply chains moving. The Government direction for people not to travel from Great Britain to Ireland does not extend to essential supply chain workers,” the spokesperson for the government said.

Specific categories of essential supply chain workers will be permitted to travel between Britain and Ireland, including types of maritime and shipping workers and HGV drivers and/or persons who hold an EU Annex 3 International Transport Worker Certificate.

The Department of Transport has alerted airlines to the ban.

Ryanair has said that customers on affected flights will be notified by email.

“They will be offered practical alternatives including free moves (no change fee applies) or refunds if they so wish,” Ryanair said in a statement.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said earlier today that the government was considering travel restrictions on movement from Britain.

Donnelly said the government was giving serious consideration to restricting flights and ferries coming from Britain into Ireland.

Belgium announced this morning that flights and train arrivals from Britain would be suspended from midnight.

It was followed by the Netherlands and Italy, who have suspended flights from the UK.

France has now also suspended transport from the UK for 48 hours from midnight.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Witty has confirmed that the new coronavirus strain could spread more quickly and called for the public to act to reduce transmission.

The World Health Organization has been informed of the UK’s findings.

In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that London, the South East and the East of England would be put under a new level of restrictions for the Christmas period.

Non-essential shops, gyms and hairdressers are closing, and people have been told to stay at home apart from limited exceptions and not to enter or leave areas under the Tier 4 restrictions.

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Scotland followed suit with a nationwide tightening of restrictions, including a ban on travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK, while Wales has also introduced stricter restrictions and attributed the new variant as a factor in the rapid rise of the country’s cases.

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health David Cullinane has said that the restrictions announced this evening are welcome but “must be kept under review”.

Cullinane said that the rise in Covid-19 cases in Ireland “is of high concern and we understand how difficult any new restrictions will be for people at this time of year, but they are necessary”.  

This must be done on an all Ireland basis and a joined up approach offers the most effective way to prevent a rapid spread of the virus.”

“The Cabinet must meet sooner than Tuesday and act on the public health advice. The situation is urgent and demands an urgent response. Workers, families and businesses need certainty and clarity.”

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