Ireland has extended a ban on air travel from the UK until December 31, despite an EU recommendation that member states allow essential travel to resume.
The decision is due to a new variant of coronavirus which is believed to be more infectious.
It comes as the Republic of Ireland imposed new restrictions, saying they were in the middle of a third wave of the virus.
Fresh lockdown measures will come in from Christmas Eve amid fears the new variant of coronavirus is already in the country and a factor in spiralling infection rates.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the Government was acting ‘quickly and aggressively’ to try to suppress the soaring case numbers.
Ireland is returning to the highest level of its Covid-19 response – Level 5 – with some adjustments, such as allowing shops to remain open.
The measures will initially remain in place until January 12.
Mr Martin said it was responsible to proceed on the assumption that the new variant of Covid-19 was already in Ireland.
Restaurants and gastro pubs will have to close at 3pm on December 24.
Inter-county travel will be prohibited after December 26.
From January 1, no gatherings among households in private homes and gardens will be permitted.
In a televised address to the nation, Mr Martin said: ‘The one thing which remains absolutely consistent about this virus is that it is potentially deadly and if it is left to spread unchecked it will reach the most vulnerable and they will pay a heavy price.’
The Taoiseach added: ‘Unfortunately in the last week we have seen extraordinary growth in the spread of the virus.
‘This is the same pattern that we have seen in the United Kingdom and across Europe.
‘Just this morning figures suggest that we may now be seeing a daily growth rate of approximately 10%.
‘This is very obviously a source of serious concern. It is simply not sustainable.
‘While we do not yet have firm evidence that the new more virulent strain of the Covid virus is in our country, the rate of growth over the last week tells me that the safest and most responsible thing to do is to proceed on the assumption that it is already here.’
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