Travel restrictions from Britain to Ireland will remain in place until 31 December.
The ban was initially brought in for 48 hours and was to be lifted at midnight tonight.
More than 40 other countries have imposed similar travel bans on Britain.
The Green Party leader and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said about 300 people will be travelling home from the UK this evening on two repatriation flights.
Addressing a Government news conference, Minister Ryan said those flights are exclusively for people who are resident in Ireland currently, “but who find themselves caught in the UK because of these restrictions and/or people who are transiting through the UK”.
He said 1,000 people contacted the call centre lines looking for help last night.
Arrangements are being made to give exceptional access to ferry services to Irish residents who are stranded in Britain after taking short trips in their vehicles.
Sunday night saw many rushing for what was likely to be the last flight to take people to Dublin from London this side of Christmas despite warnings from Prime Minister Boris Johnson about leaving Tier 4.
Johnson announced on Saturday that London and the South East of England was to be put into Tier 4 restrictions, measures akin to full lockdown, after a new variant of the virus that spreads up to 70% more quickly was discovered, saying this meant people could no longer go ahead with Christmas as planned.
In response to the announcement, the Irish government joined other European countries in suspending travel from the UK announcing a 48 hour ban on flights starting on Midnight Sunday to be reviewed today.
- The Irish government warns that for public health reasons, people should not travel to Ireland by air or by sea.
- Ferry crossings will continue for essential supply chains and essential supply chain workers can travel if necessary.
- The Government has said that arrangements will be put in place to facilitate Irish residents on short trips to Great Britain who need to get back to to Ireland in the coming days.
Aer Lingus said in a statement on Sunday: “Following the announcement by the Irish Government that flights from the UK to the Republic of Ireland are banned for the next 48 hours commencing midnight 20th December 2020, Aer Lingus will not operate flights from the UK to the Republic of Ireland in that period.
“Aer Lingus is operating flights from the Republic of Ireland to the UK in order to facilitate the repatriation of customers to the UK and those with connecting flights in the UK.
“Customers whose flights have been cancelled will be contacted by Aer Lingus directly, and are entitled to a refund, voucher or rerouting at a later date.
“Aer Lingus continues to liaise with the Department of Transport, other Government Departments and the relevant authorities as required.”
Ireland’s Transport Minister Eamon Ryan Minister Ryan said governments had to act fast following the announcement: “It was the UK’s announcement the previous evening where they were advising their people not to move, to stay at home and the analysis that they presented that we just heard.
“That the R-number, the transmissibility of this new strain could be significantly higher than previous strains.
“That’s what caused us and other European Governments to act fast.
“We said 48-hours because we think it’s appropriate to assess firstly how it’s working, work with our other European colleagues and with the UK Government to work out what comes next.
“It has to be on the basis of science and good medical evidence of what’s needed.
“I’m confident we’ll be able to do that, we’ve a meeting with our other European colleague stoday and a meeting internally, Government and Cabinet are meeting tomorrow to assess all the information that’s going to come to us.”
Former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ireland’s chief medical officers have been warning against travelling home for Christmas, saying crowded airports could lead to disaster.
In spite of warnings about leaving Tier 4, there were reports of a crowd trying to make the 8.55pm Aer Lingus flight to Dublin on Sunday night that would get them home just before the ban came in but was reported to be overbooked.
Rachel Scully wrote on Twitter: “Legitimately hundreds of people have turned up this flight. British Airway to put up everyone in a hotel and sort out a connecting flight as they won’t be able to fly directly to Dublin as of midnight.”
BA staff informed passengers that special arrangements had been made with officials in Ireland to ensure those left waiting were flown to Dublin on another aircraft.
“Irish gov have given the green light and we’ve been processed for a BA flight. Due to land at 23:45. Woops of joy once the news got out. A Christmas miracle,” she wrote.
A spokesperson for BA said: “Our teams looked after customers while we urgently looked into alternative arrangements to get them on their way to Dublin as quickly as possible.”
There could also be food shortages after many countries, with France of particular significance, stopping all freight cargo to Britain. Britain’s supermarkets say they are well stocked but there could be shortages of salad and fruit items in the wake of Christmas due to it being impossible to get deliveries through the ports which were already under pressure due to Brexit and the lockdown.