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Travel ban to apply to visitors from both UK and South Africa until 6 January

Both variants are feared to be more transmissible, and research is ongoing.

coronavirus-sat-apr-11-2020 File photo of Dublin Airport. Source: PA Images

A BAN ON air travel and passenger travel on ferries from Great Britain has been extended until 6 January.

The ban was initially introduced on 21 December over fears of a new, potentially more transmissible strain of the coronavirus that has been linked to spiralling case numbers in the United Kingdom.

In announcing new Level 5 restrictions this evening, the government also moved to extend this travel ban to include South Africa.

Similar concerns have been raised over a separate SARS-CoV-2 mutation there.

Flights remain in operation between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Although thousands of mutations of the virus which causes Covid-19 have been observed, the new strain first identified in the UK – dubbed B117 or Variant of Concern (VOC) 202012/01 – is feared to be more transmissible than others.

Research to confirm this is ongoing, but initial studies have provided some evidence to support this theory, such as a higher viral load in respiratory samples.

The UK variant was first identified in Ireland on Christmas Eve, and the government this evening cited it as a factor in introducing ‘full-scale’ Level 5 restrictions.

“While international research into this new variant is ongoing, it is already very clear that we are dealing with a strain of the disease that spreads much, much more quickly,” Taoiseach Michéal Martin said in his address to the nation.

Indeed, it is spreading at a rate that has surpassed the most pessimistic models available to us.

The South African variant – 501.V2 – has also been linked with higher transmissibility.

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However, the European Centre for Disease Control noted in a briefing note this week that as is the case with the UK variant, it is not associated with a higher severity of infection.
501.V2 has been identified in patients in the United Kingdom and Finland.

Aer Lingus confirmed this evening that it will continue to not operate flights between Ireland and Great Britain.

“Aer Lingus is operating flights from the Republic of Ireland to Great Britain in order to facilitate the repatriation of customers to Great Britain and those with connecting flights in Great Britain,” the statement added.

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Nicky Ryan

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