Irish citizens urged to find their own flights to get home from South Africa

State may step in to repatriate citizens only after commercial options exhausted – DFA

Flights from seven southern African countries to Europe have been suspended as a result of the Omicron variant. Photograph: Jerome Delay/AP

Flights from seven southern African countries to Europe have been suspended as a result of the Omicron variant. Photograph: Jerome Delay/AP

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has said it may step in to repatriate Irish citizens stranded in South Africa, but only after commercial options are exhausted.

British Airways (BA) will be resuming flights from the country mid-week, but only to bring back British and Irish citizens who wish to return to the UK or Ireland.

Flights from seven southern African countries to Europe have been suspended as a result of the Omicron variant.

In a statement, the DFA urged Irish citizens in South Africa to book on commercial flights including on BA and Virgin Atlantic.

It added: “We will continue to monitor the situation, in coordination with our EU and other partners – including the necessity for organisation of future repatriation flights should commercial options become unavailable. In the meantime, we encourage citizens to avail of commercial flight options.

“ The Department and embassy will notify those seeking consular assistance in the region of further confirmed travel options as they become operational, and will provide regular updates through the DFA press office and its social media accounts.”

Those who do make it back to Ireland will be required to have a negative/not detected PCR test result taken 72 hours prior to arrival to Ireland. This will be irrespective of their vaccination status.

They will then have to quarantine at home for 14 days from date of arrival at addresses on the passenger locator form and take PCR tests on day two and day eight of quarantine. If both post arrival PCR tests are negative, home quarantine will be ended after 10 days.

The countries affected by the travel ban are South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

On Sunday the Irish ambassador to South Africa Fionnuala Gilsenan confirmed: “Good news as @British_Airways plan to resume flights by mid-week with Irish nationals able to transit via London. @dfatravelwise.”

Two members of the Munster travelling party are set to remains in South Africa with one player having tested positive for Covid-19 and another member of the group having been deemed to be a close contact. The remainder of the squad is due back in Ireland in the coming days.

They have returned to their hotel base in Cape Town last night to isolate. The players and staff will undergo another round of PCR testing today with the results expected tomorrow.

Head Coach Johann van Graan said it was a “challenging period” for all concerned.

“We have one player in a different hotel who is doing as well as possible after receiving a positive PCR result, while the remainder of the group are isolating individually at the team hotel,” he added.

“Work is ongoing with all relevant authorities in securing our return to Ireland at a time when it is safe and appropriate but for now our priority is to look after our players and staff.”

‘Very difficult situation’

The Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers said there are 48 people in the touring party.

He stated that it was “very difficult situation” for the squad, but all of those who have returned negative tests can return home to Ireland “as quickly as possible”. They will have to do mandatory home quarantine for a period of at least 10 days.

“Work is ongoing to find a route home for them.”

There was better news for Ireland’s women’s cricket team who were playing a tournament in Harare, Zimbabwe.

They are flying from Harare to Windhoek in Namibia and from there to Oman in the Middle East where they hope to be able to catch a flight back to Ireland.

Deirdre McDermott (64), who is in Cape Town, is on a five week holiday in South Africa. She is due back in Ireland on December 8th.

She booked a flight on Sunday with Air France costing €1,800 which was cancelled and another flight on Thursday which Turkish Airlines cost €700. It was also cancelled.

“There are no other flights. I am booked 100 per cent to go home on BA on December 8th. Who knows? I hope to get out next week, but I don’t know,” she said.

She said she did not have confirmation yet that British Airways will be able to bring her and other Irish nationals home.

“I feel very safe if I am honest,” she said. “If hotel quarantine comes into Ireland, I’m not prepared to do that, but staying here for Christmas would not be my first choice either.”