An 48-hour ban on passengers travelling from Britain is likely to be extended by the Government beyond Tuesday, as fears grow over the spread of a more infectious strain of Covid-19.
As the Irish Times reports, European Union member states will hold a crisis meeting on Monday to co-ordinate their response to the new variant, which is 70 per cent more transmissible than other strains.
The meeting was called after Ireland and other European countries imposed tough restrictions on travel from Britain aimed at stopping the spread of the variant.
The ban, which came into force at midnight, caused travel chaos in Britain, disrupting the travel plans of large numbers of Irish emigrants hoping to return for Christmas.
And with France also banning all road travel from Britain, including essential freight, importers warned the restrictions could hit the supply of essential goods to Ireland from mainland Europe.
Aidan Flynn, general manager of the Freight Transport Association, spoke of a “perfect storm” with Covid-19, pre-Brexit stockpiling and Christmas supplies falling at the same time.
Warning of “serious consequences” for the transport of supplies to the State from mainland Europe across Britain, he said Irish truckers would be left stranded on both sides of the English Channel now that the key UK “landbridge” transit route to and from continental Europe had been “compromised”.
The Government imposed the ban for 48 hours as a stopgap measure pending consideration at Cabinet on Tuesday, when proposals to tighten up domestic Covid-19 restrictions will also be considered.
The more infectious strain, which has spread rapidly in London and southeast England since it appeared last September, has not been identified here to date.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said it was not known whether the recent sharp increase in cases in Ireland had any link to the mutation of the virus.
“I think realistically it is hard to see that things are going to change in the next few days . . . There is not a high probability that we would be returning to a schedule of flights straight away.”