The travel ban from Britain and South Africa will be lifted this week, but replaced by a new testing requirement. Our travel editor explains the new rules.
RYANAIR and Aer Lingus will tell passengers flying from Britain to Ireland that failure to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours “may result in prosecution on arrival”.
The move comes as around 25pc of Ireland's total Covid-19 caseload has now been recorded in the first six days of January, according to HSE figures.
The surge is being met with a raft of new lockdown restrictions set to remain in place throughout January.
Here’s what we know about the new rules for travel.
What's happening the ban on travel from Britain?
The flight and ferry travel ban from Britain and South Africa has been extended to midnight this Friday, January 8, but it will be lifted at that point.
Travellers from these countries will then be required to present negative (“not detected”) results from PCR tests taken within the previous 72 hours, as well as isolating for 14 days after arrival.
Just to be clear – you have to test negative AND isolate?
“Having a not-detected test will not absolve people from the need to self-isolate,” the Department of An Taoiseach has confirmed. “Arrivals from Great Britain and South Africa must self-isolate for the full 14 days, even if they have a second not-detected test.”
You can find a list of private PCR test providers in the UK here.
How will this be enforced?
"Passengers will be asked to produce evidence of their not-detected test to their travel company before departure," the Department of An Taoiseach says.
"They will be advised of the need for it, and the fact that it is an offence not to have it. The Minister for Health will sign new regulations under the Health Act to this effect.
"At our airports, the Border Management Unit can and will ask for proof. At our ferry ports it will be An Garda Síochána.”
What if people do not comply?
They will face a fine of up to €2,500 or six months imprisonment, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has said.
What will airlines do?
"At boarding in Great Britain, Aer Lingus will require all customers to present evidence (e.g. email, text of document) of a negative PCR test result that can subsequently be verified by Border Control staff in Ireland," the airline said.
"Customers that do not have such evidence will be advised that they may be prosecuted on arrival if they proceed to travel.”
Ryanair's website now carries the same warning. “Your failure to produce confirmation of a negative PCR test may result in prosecution on arrival into Ireland,” it says.
Ferry companies will provide similar advice.
What if I need to travel for emergency reasons?
Essential supply chain workers such as airline and ships crews and hauliers are exempt, as are gardaí working in the course of their duties.
There may also be “very limited” exemptions on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
The Irish Embassy in London has tweeted: “If you have a genuine humanitarian emergency requiring urgent travel from Britain to Ireland you can contact us for advice and consular assistance on +44 0207 235 2171.”
What if I am transiting through Britain or South Africa?
If your journey does not originate in these countries, but you transit through them, you will not be required to provide evidence of a negative or "not detected" Covid-19 PCR test.
Remind me why the ban was introduced?
A ban on travel to Britain and South Africa was introduced over the Christmas holidays in response to the identification of new strains of Covid-19.
Must travellers from elsewhere present negative test results?
This isn't mandatory now, but it's likely to be in the near future. Cabinet has "agreed provisionally" to apply the same measures to all 'red’ regions, Minister Ryan said yesterday. It will consult on how to do that over the coming week.
What will that mean for the EU traffic-light system?
Ireland will continue to opt into the traffic-light system.
Separately, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) listed Ireland as 'red’ for the second consecutive week on its updated traffic light map, reflecting the surging wave of Covid-19 here.
How long will the new rules last?
At least until January 31, though they remain under review.
Are many people actually travelling?
No. Aer Lingus plans to recommence flights from Britain to Ireland this Saturday, but the numbers travelling are a mere trickle compared to normal volumes.
Dublin Airport estimated that 137,000 people travelled through over Christmas, as compared to 1.2 million last year, for example. That’s a drop of around 88pc.
Today, Ryanair said it will further reduce its schedules from January 21, saying it will operate “few, if any" flights from Ireland and the UK after January if the current restrictions continue.
Minister Ryan yesterday acknowledged the difficulty the rules will cause both travellers and the travel industry, but insisted the measures were necessary as Covid cases surge.
"In this moment, we stay at home,” he said.