The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has welcomed confirmation that new travel measures taken by the UK against the Omicron variant will not apply to the Common Travel Area (CTA).

New tougher measures including PCR testing will be introduced for arrivals to the UK from Tuesday morning.

All contacts with a suspected case of the Omicron variant will have to isolate for ten days, regardless of their vaccination status, amid concerns existing vaccines will be less effective against the strain that is believed to spread rapidly.

However, this will not apply to the common travel area, which covers travel between Britain, the island of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

No Covid-19 test or quarantine is required if travelling within the CTA and not outside of the CTA in the previous ten days.

Mr Coveney welcomed the move today and clarified that travellers from Ireland to the UK will not be affected by the measures.

The Department of Health announced measures to mitigate against Omicron earlier this week, including mandatory home quarantine regardless of vaccine status.

Visa requirements have been updated and the advisory to avoid non-essential travel has been applied to those countries concerned, including Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Returning Irish residents will be required to undergo strict home quarantine regardless of vaccine, recovery, or test status, and must undergo PCR testing during quarantine.

The Green Party leader and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the Government is considering chartering a flight to bring Irish citizens home from South Africa.

He insisted the Department of Foreign Affairs will ensure they get home.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week programme, he said: "The numbers are not large but to date it's 147 people we have identified."

He said Mr Coveney is liaising with other European countries to coordinate and look at getting a charter flight.

He said when these people arrive back to Ireland they need to ensure they isolate at home.


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The UK Health Security Agency confirmed two cases of the new Omicron variant cases yesterday after genomic sequencing, which are both believed to be connected to travel to southern Africa.

The individuals and their households were ordered into self-isolation and targeted testing was being carried out in areas where they are thought to have been infectious.

Britain has added Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe to their "red list", meaning British and Irish residents who arrive in the country must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. Non-residents will be refused entry.

Meanwhile, British Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said mandatory mask-wearing will return to shops and public transport in the UK on Tuesday under plans to combat the new Omicron variant.

But he told families they should plan for Christmas "as normal".

Mr Javid said the situation is "nowhere near" the need to reintroduce social distancing rules and work from home guidance, despite a raft of precautionary measures being reintroduced to tackle the concerning strain.