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Irish airlift starts as Dublin bans UK visitors until the New Year

IRELAND started repatriating its residents stuck in the UK yesterday as it extended a travel ban against Britain until December 31.

Two flights and ferries were chartered by the Irish government after passenger flights were halted in response to the new Covid variant in the UK. The Irish foreign office said: ‘There will be no access to people living in Great Britain who were planning short trips to Ireland for Christmas.’

Those arriving in Ireland from the UK will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. The Northern Ireland Executive has also recommended against all but essential travel to and from Great Britain.

A Tier 5 lockdown is to be imposed in Ireland from tomorrow after a 70 per cent surge in Covid cases last week. Irish prime minister Micheál Martin (pictured), who admitted the variant may have already arrived, said there was ‘light at the end of this tunnel’ with 10,000 vaccine doses due to be rolled out next week.

Turkey has identified and quarantined 4,603 airline passengers who arrived from the UK on and after December 14. Flights from Britain, South Africa, Denmark and the Netherlands were suspended on Sunday evening in response to a new strain of coronavirus said to be circulating there.

More than 40 countries have banned UK flights because of fears regarding the spread of the coronavirus variant. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic has joined British Airways and Delta in agreeing to test passengers for Covid before they board New York-bound flights.

State governor Andrew Cuomo said the new strain was ‘another disaster waiting to happen and all efforts must be placed into averting another crisis’.