MIAMI – More than 40 flights from Britain are landing in Belfast and Derry Monday despite a 48-hour ban on such flights that began at midnight on Sunday, The Irish Times reports.

The travel ban between Britain and Ireland was imposed as a precautionary action following an announcement by the British government that a new variant of the coronavirus spreading in London and the south-east of England is more infectious.

Apart from Ireland, the Nerherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Canada, India, Moldova, Kuwait and Russia have all suspended flightsto/from the UK.

Ryanair at Belfast International Airport. Photo: Wiki Commons

Many Travelers on Flights

The Times today reports that one flight arriving into Belfast from London contained more than 100 passengers. These passengers are due to travel to Dublin on a bus provided by the airline.

One passenger, Erica, who did not want to give her surname, said her British Airways flight was “not 100 percent full.” But around 135 people were on board with many rows containing three people. This particular flight carried people who had booked to fly to Dublin with the airline on Sunday but could not travel as the flight was overbooked, she said.

“There was zero social distancing in Terminal 2 (in Heathrow) last night. But almost everyone had masks on at all times,” she said. Erica said she will isolate and get a coronavirus test when back in Dublin. Most people she spoke to on her flight were planning to do the same.

City of Derry Airport. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Travel Restrictions Vary

According to the Times story, Northern Ireland has not initiated a travel ban. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, however, has imposed a strict travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK for the holiday period. People living in Wales went into lock down at midnight. Those living in London and the south-east and east of England are experiencing Tier 4 — the highest level of restrictions — for the Christmas period.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster it is “probable” the new strain detected in London is already in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, too. She said medical personnel have detected four cases in the North which have a “different sequencing than other cases”. Samples from these cases were sent to England for examination, she said.

A spokeswoman for Belfast International Airport expected that that Tuesday and Wednesday would be the busiest days for Christmas travel at the airport.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Minister for Transport Eamonn Ryan said the 48-hour travel ban to and from Britain will allow the Government to assess how the new strain spreads and to work with the UK Government and European colleagues to determine the next steps.

Mr. Ryan said anyone who traveled into Ireland yesterday should restrict their movements for 14 days. He said he believes incoming passengers, and their families and friends, would “see the wisdom in that”.

Featured image: Dublin Airport. Photo: Wiki Commons