The Cabinet has agreed that travel restrictions from Britain to Ireland will remain in place until 31 December.

The ban was initially brought in for 48 hours to safeguard against the appearance of a more contagious form of coronavirus in southeast England.

The ban was due to expire at midnight tonight, but has now been extended.

More than 40 other countries have imposed similar travel bans on Britain.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that around 200 Irish residents will be repatriated on flights from the UK today and he expects there will be daily flights for the duration of the current travel ban which runs until the New Year.

In relation to the EU Commission request that members states lift their blanket bans on travel from the UK he said that was a request, not an EU decision and the Irish government has made its own decision.

He said the travel ban will be reviewed and may be replaced with a system of checks in the New Year.

Addressing a Government news conference earlier, the Green Party leader and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the repatriation flights are exclusively for people who are resident in Ireland currently, "but who find themselves caught in the UK because of these restrictions and/or people who are transiting through the UK".

He said 1,000 people contacted the call centre lines last night.

He said he will continue to work with both the UK and French Governments to make sure that Irish truckers get home safely.

He said for people who've booked tickets on public transport those tickets will still be valid.

Seats are also being made available to Irish-bound passengers who are transiting through British airports and who have no other way of completing their destination.

Arrangements are being made to give exceptional access to ferry services to Irish residents who are stranded in Britain after taking short trips in their vehicles.


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Meanwhile, the HSE has issued advice for anyone who has travelled from England, Scotland, Wales since 8 December:

- You should self-isolate for a period of 14 days from the date of arrival into Ireland.

- You should arrange a Covid test as soon as possible 5 days after your arrival in Ireland.

- If you develop any symptoms of Covid at any stage, phone your GP and alert them of your recent travel from Great Britain.

- Should your test results be 'virus not detected' continue to self-isolate for the duration of the 14-day period, as you could still be developing symptoms and should protect others from potential risk.

- If you have travelled from Great Britain, do not visit a nursing home or long term residential facility until you have completed your 14 days of self-isolation.

Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer, HSE, added: "This is a stricter form of advice than the standard "restrict movements" advice that would otherwise apply to persons travelling to Ireland, but our priorities must be to keep our friends and family safe over Christmas.

The European Commission has adopted a recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel and transport measures.

It said while "non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged, essential travel and transit of passengers should be facilitated.

"Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions."

EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, said: "Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes.

"While precautions are needed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus variant, with today's recommendation, we therefore ensure that the restrictions are coordinated and provide for the necessary exemptions for citizens and residents returning home and other essential travellers."

The Commission added: "Until the end of December, free movement rules still apply to the UK. This means that member states should not in principle refuse the entry of persons travelling from the UK."

In Northern Ireland, the Stormont Executive has advised people against non-essential travel between Britain and Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Chair of the Stormont Assembly health committee, Colm Gildernew, said pandemic measures at airports in Northern Ireland need to be strengthened to ensure passengers are filling out locator forms and self-isolating.

The Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh and Tyrone told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that guidance has been issued advising against non-essential travel from Northern Ireland to Britain or the Republic of Ireland.

Last night, a proposal for an immediate ban on travel from Britain was defeated in a vote at the Stormont Executive.

Mr Gildernew said that, given the serious evidence that the new strain of virus is more transmissable and the pressure hospital services are under, concrete proposals to tackle the spread on an all-island basis need to be implemented.