Latest: Transport Minister says UK-Ireland travel restrictions won't necessarily be lifted by Wednesday

Latest: Transport Minister says UK-Ireland travel restrictions won't necessarily be lifted by Wednesday

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The Government has imposed a 48-hour ban on travel from Britain to Ireland, the country's transport minister has confirmed.

The restrictions will come into force at midnight on Sunday.

The rules are to be reviewed during Tuesday's Cabinet meeting but it is understood they will be extended beyond then.

Eamon Ryan said there will be a 48-hour ban on flights arriving in Ireland from Britain, while ferries will continue to operate for freight.

Speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin on Sunday, Mr Ryan said: "We need haulage coming in to keep our shelves full but other passengers will be restricted.

"I talked to the UK minister this morning and have been talking throughout the day with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, the health minister, foreign affairs minister and others involved.

"We have to do this because the UK Government themselves has put in place very strict restrictions on movements.

"This new strain of coronavirus, which they have identified, seems to have a much higher transmission rate.

"On a precautionary basis it's right for us to follow up on the Dutch, Belgium, Italian and other governments will do the same.

"Any passengers who are in transit will have to set up a mechanism to repatriate them in a safe way, but general travel between here and Britain is going to be restricted and we are going to review that at Cabinet to see if there will be any further changes."

Mr Ryan said there is a concern over the spike in coronavirus cases in the last few days in Ireland.

"We have put it in place for 48 hours but there will be changing developments, we will assess how it works and how we manage it from there," Mr Ryan added.

"It's not as if after 48 hours there will be a loosening but it's right to do it on a phased, test basis to restrict traffic now on a precautionary principle and then review it in 48 hours' time."

It follows the decision of a number of European countries to impose bans on flights from the UK over fears the new more-transmissible variant of coronavirus in England could spread.

Scientists have warned the new variant could be up to 70% more transmissible than the original virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping restrictions in London and the South East in a bid to get the disease under control.

Ireland relaxed its Covid-19 restrictions on Friday, allowing inter-county travel over Christmas until January 6 and permitting three households to meet indoors.

But tougher restrictions are set to be imposed before the new year.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed on Friday that pubs and restaurants will be closed before New Year's Eve.

He said he would recommend to Cabinet that gastropubs and restaurants now close early.

Public health bosses have recommended stricter measures to Government, including that pubs and restaurants be closed before the new year and greater restrictions be placed on household visits after Christmas.

It comes after the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) warned that cases of Covid-19 are accelerating faster than anticipated after restrictions were eased at the beginning of December.

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