Ireland's main ferry providers have called for the urgent restoration of the Common Travel Area.

Irish Ferries and Stena Line said unrestricted travel between Britain and Ireland would eliminate the discrepancies and loopholes on travel restrictions on the island.

Simon Palmer, Communications Manager with Stena Line, said people can now travel from Britain to Northern Ireland and throughout the island of Ireland without restrictions.

This freedom to travel, coupled with the high level of vaccinations in the UK, should bring about an end to travel restrictions between Ireland and Britain, he said.

Irish Ferries described the Government's approach to travel restrictions as "a la carte".

Both companies said a decision on the issue needs to be made urgently so they can cater for the expected demand.

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This week, Stena Line moved one of its largest ships on its Irish services, Estrid, from Rosslare to Dublin in the hope that unrestricted travel between Ireland will soon be permitted.

At present, anyone travelling from the UK to Ireland must have a negative PCR test and must quarantine until they have another negative PCR test five days after their arrival.

However, travellers from Ireland to the UK are not subject to the same restrictions.

Just last week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he hoped that the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK would be restored "very soon".

But concerns about the spread within the UK of the Covid variant originally identified in India have cast doubt on whether the Common Travel Area can be restored any time soon.

Stena Estrid has been moved from Rosslare to Dublin

It is a decision members of the Irish community in the UK are anxiously awaiting.

Damien Kennedy from Cork has lived in London for almost 18 years but he has not been back home in 18 months.

He said it has been difficult, personally and professionally, as he has been unable to travel to Ireland since he expanded his UK-based food production business.

"I haven't been back in just over 18 months now and that's the longest I've ever been away in one one stretch.

"I used to go back once a month to see my family. I have elderly parents and I have a new niece, Emily, who was born five weeks ago and I'm desperate to see her and cuddle her.

"We also launched our business into the Irish market last year and we are on the shelves in Irish retailers for the first time.

"So really I'm desperate to get home and see everybody and just give people a hug," he said.

France has now joined Austria and Germany in imposing new restrictions on British arrivals due to concerns about the Indian variant.

Travellers from Britain to France will now be subject to a mandatory quarantine period.

Yesterday, Austria banned direct flights and tourist visits from Britain and last week Germany imposed a two- week quarantine on arrivals from the UK.

The Government is due to announce plans for easing international travel restrictions on Friday.