Britain travel Q&A: What you need to know about flights, ferries and refunds

Government announced a complete ban on flights from Britain for at least 48 hours

Ferries will continue to run to keep supply-chains open. However these will not carry ordinary passengers. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

Ferries will continue to run to keep supply-chains open. However these will not carry ordinary passengers. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

 

How is the Irish Government dealing with the new, more virulent strain of Covid-19 detected in the UK?

On Sunday evening, the Government announced a complete ban on flights from Great Britain for at least the next 48 hours, the strictest measures taken to date regarding international travel

“The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Health had detailed discussions on Sunday and announced that in the interests of Public Health, people in Britain, regardless of nationality, should not travel to Ireland, by air or by sea,” the Government said in a statement.

This means, all travel from Britain, except for supply-chain workers, will be banned by order of the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly from midnight. The ban will apply to both flights and ferries. Travel between the Republic and Northern Ireland will still be allowed but people are to be strongly advised against it.

The ban is to last for 48 hours to give Cabinet time to meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue in detail. It is expected the ban will then be extended in some form.

Will planes and ferries still run?

All flights are to cease for the next 48 hours and probably beyond that. The airlines have already been advised of the ban.

Ferries will continue to run to keep supply-chains open. However these will not carry ordinary passengers. The only exceptions to the ban are essential supply-chain workers such as ship staff and HGV drivers.

There is no provision for other “essential travel”, meaning people travelling for work or humanitarian reasons are included in the ban.

This will affect thousands of Irish UK residents planning to fly or sail home to spend them with their families for Christmas. A poll by FRS Recruitment last month found upwards of four in ten Irish workers in the UK planned to return home for the festive period.

What about Irish people currently in Britain on short trips?

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The Government says it is putting in place arrangements for the repatriation of Irish residents currently in Britain on short term trips who were planning to return over the coming days.

It is not clear how these repatriation efforts will work. The Air Corps may be involved but the large numbers who will likely require assistance makes it more likely the Government will charter private aircraft.

How does the Irish move compare with the UK regulations?

On Sunday, in reaction to the new Covid-19 strain the UK Government placed the south-east of England, including London, under Tier 4 restrictions. These restrictions prevent any non-essential travel into or out of Tier 4 areas, including international travel.

The ban affects all residents of Greater London as well as all or parts of Surrey, Kent, Essex, Bedfordshire, Hampshire, East Sussex and Buckinghamshire. It will be reviewed on December 30th.

People living in the rest of the country can still travel internationally and can use London’s airports to do so. However the ban on the Irish side means there will be no flights to Ireland from anywhere on the island.

The Netherlands and Belgium have already halted flights and Italy is expected to follow suit. France and Germany are believed to be considering similar measures.

What about Irish people flying home from another country with a connecting flight in the UK?

Connecting flights to Ireland will also be banned for 48 hours under the Irish rules despite the UK Government continuing to allow people to transition through London airports.

Ireland will offer repatriation to Irish residents travelling home through a connecting flight in Britain.

What about refunds?

The Government ban on flights and ferries means customers should be entitled to a full refund.

Aer Lingus and Ryanair have yet to make a statement on the matter. Aer Lingus responded to customers on Twitter earlier on Sunday, saying it would waive change fees, while not addressing refunds.

UK based airlines such as Easyjet have committed to refunding anyone who cannot fly out of London due to the Tier 4 restrictions while British Airways is offering a voucher only.

How worried should we be about this new strain of Covid-19?

The UK government says the new strain is up to 70 per cent more infectious. However there is no evidence to date that it is more dangerous or that it will be vaccine resistant.

Mr Donnelly said on Sunday he would be “pleasantly surprised” if the new strain was not already in Ireland.

“I don’t think anything is inevitable but I will be very, very, pleasantly surprised if it isn’t here,” given the number of flights ferries and travel between the UK and Ireland.

It would be “very naive to think it would not potentially be here”, he said.

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