The Irish Government has announced consular flights are being arranged for Irish residents stranded in Britain following the ban on flights into Ireland.
A travel ban was imposed on travel from Britain to Ireland for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday, after UK prime minister Boris Johnson brought in increased restrictions for parts of England before Christmas due to the spread of a new variant of the virus.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said there would be at least two consular flights from Britain today.
The flights will be accessible to Irish residents and Ireland-bound passengers transiting through British airports who had become stranded.
But they will not be available to Irish people who are living in Britain and had planned on going home for Christmas.
At least one flight will depart from London while the departure location of the other flight has yet to be determined.
The flights will be operated by Irish airlines.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it will depend on the demand from those who contact its assistance line.
A statement read:
“This is because of the ongoing travel ban due to public health concerns.
“It is essential that anyone eligible to travel on the consular flights identifies themselves to the Department of Foreign Affairs, demonstrates their entitlement under the criteria, and registers to be included on the flight by calling the dedicated assistance line +353 1 6131700.
⚠️ Important Travel Advice – GB— Irish Foreign Ministry (@dfatirl) December 21, 2020
Please contact the GB Emergency Travel Helpline if you fall into the categories below ☎️ +353 (0) 1 613 1700 pic.twitter.com/nbNkrtzTYs
“It is not possible to book these flights through any other route.” Ferry access is also being arranged for Irish residents who have been stranded in their vehicles after taking short trips to Britain.
These ferry journeys cannot be booked directly and those eligible to travel must also contact the same assistance line.
At present ferry services are only allowed for freight reasons.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, said the public health advice remained that people should avoid all non-essential travel.
Asked about his message to people who had arrived in Ireland from the UK on Sunday, Dr Holohan said: “We have advised all along that we need to all avoid non-essential travel.
“There will be some people involved in travel where that travel is essential. To stay away from making judgments and people’s behaviours and instead focus on what people can do to behave responsibly.” He added that those who had arrived in Ireland in the past 14 days, or who arrive in Ireland from the UK, should self-isolate and get tested, ideally on day five, and they should still self-isolate for 14 days.
Cabinet ministers are due to decide today whether to extend the ban on travel from Britain to Ireland.
The Transport Minister said the ban was “unlikely” to be lifted before Christmas.