Remember Ireland’s Green List and the EU’s Traffic Lights? Both have been quickly superseded as EU governments and health officials scramble to impose bans on travel from the UK in quick responses to the new Covid-19 strain, including a 48-hour ban on travel from Britain to the Republic of Ireland – a ban that has now been extended to Thursday 31 December.
The EU held an emergency meeting of health officials yesterday morning (Monday 21 December) and more than 40 European countries, including Ireland, have already suspended air, rail and sea links from the UK, with Belgium and France both closing the Eurostar service through the Channel Tunnel. On Sunday, Stormont ministers debated – and, of course, disagreed on – the potential of a temporary ban on travel from Britain to Northern Ireland. The NI Department of Health sought legal advice on the issue ahead of the executive resuming discussions yesterday, when they voted against a Sinn Fein proposal for an immediate ban. The proposal was supported by the SDLP but opposed by the DUP, UUP and Alliance Party.
About 6,000 cases of one variant strain or another have been reported worldwide, mostly in Denmark and England, but also in South Africa. The World Health Organisation has reported that nine cases of the new strain have appeared in Denmark and one in the Netherlands.
The WHO has also cautioned against major alarm over the new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in Britain, saying that this was a normal part of a pandemic’s evolution. WHO officials even put a positive light on the discovery of the new strains that have prompted numerous countries to impose travel restrictions on Britain and South Africa, saying that new tools to track the virus were working.
“We have to find a balance,” said Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme. “It is very important to have transparency, it is very important to tell the public the way it is, but it is also important to get across that this is a normal part of virus evolution.”
The Irish Government has announced a minimum of two consular flights to bring Irish residents home following the ban on flights into Ireland from the UK. The flights will be operated by Irish airlines.
In a statement, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the consular flights will also be accessible to Irish-bound passengers who are transiting through British airports who have also become stranded. At least one flight will depart from London. The other departure airport will be decided by the demand from those who contact the Department of Foreign Affairs assistance line.
The flights will be open to Irish residents and transiting passengers only. The Department of Foreign Affairs said there will be no access to people living in Britain who were planning short trips to Ireland for Christmas due to the ongoing travel ban due to public health concerns.
Aer Lingus Statement
“Following the announcement by the Irish Government that flights from the UK to the Republic of Ireland are banned for the next 48 hours commencing midnight 20 December 2020, Aer Lingus will not operate flights from the UK to the Republic of Ireland in that period.
“Aer Lingus is operating flights from the Republic of Ireland to the UK in order to facilitate the repatriation of customers to the UK and those with connecting flights in the UK.
“Customers whose flights have been cancelled will be contacted by Aer Lingus directly, and are entitled to a refund, voucher or rerouting at a later date.
“Aer Lingus continues to liaise with the Department of Transport, other Government Departments and the relevant authorities as required.”
“For any flights to/from the UK in the coming days (20 to 24 December) that are banned by EU Governments regulation, all affected customers will receive an email notification and they will be offered practical alternatives including free moves (no change fee applies) or refunds if they so wish.
“In the case of all other flights to/from the UK that are permitted to fly, Ryanair will operate these flights to facilitate all passengers who need to travel for business reasons, and are booked on them or wish to move to these flights. If any such passengers (booked on operating flights) do not wish to travel during the next five days prior to Christmas, then Ryanair will facilitate a free move of their booking (no change fee applies) to any date up to 15 March 2021.
“All such customer queries must be submitted via the following form: https://onlineform.ryanair.com/ie/en
Irish Ferries Statement
“Irish Ferries services are continuing as normal for freight. Essential travel from Ireland via Wales which has Tier 4 restrictions is permitted, but travellers are advised to keep all necessary stops to a minimum and minimise contact with people as much as possible.
“With 48 hours of Britain to Ireland travel restrictions announced from midnight 20/12/20, the Irish Government has instructed us not to accept any passengers travelling to Ireland. Irish Ferries will issue travel credit for those no longer travelling on the Irish Sea on 21/22 December.
“Please contact us from Mon 21 December to arrange credit/re-arrange travel subject to availability. Lines are open: Monday 21 – Wednesday 23 08.00-18.00,
Thursday 24 08.00-16.30.”
Stena Line Statement
“Important update for passengers intending to travel with Stena Line’s ferry services to the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands:
“Due to new measures imposed by the Irish Government and the Government of the Netherlands, there are restrictions on passenger travel into both countries from the UK.
Republic of Ireland: “For at least the next 48 hours from midnight tonight, passenger travel is not permitted on our services from the UK into the Republic of Ireland. Except for essential supply chain workers. This affects our Holyhead to Dublin and our Fishguard to Rosslare services.
The Netherlands: “Until further notice no passenger travel is allowed from the UK into the Netherlands. This affects our Harwich to Hook of Holland service.
Travel to the UK from the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands: “The above restrictions do not affect travel to the UK from either the Republic of Ireland or Netherlands, which is still permitted for essential reasons in line with government guidance.
Freight: “All our freight transportation services, including accompanied movements by freight drivers, are unaffected by the above restrictions.
“The above statement does not relate to Stena Lines service from England and Scotland to Northern Ireland, or from Ireland to France. All remain operational and carrying passengers for essential reasons.”