The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has urged Irish nationals trapped in the seven South African countries affected by the latest Covid-19 travel restrictions to continue trying to find a way back to Ireland via «commercial means» and to maintain contact with them. Airline or travel agent.
On Sunday, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said the government was aware of the «limited availability and continued disruption of flights from the region» and that Irish officials were communicating with people in South Africa and other affected countries through the Irish Embassy in Pretoria.
The spokeswoman did not say whether the government was planning a flight to bring back Irish nationals in South Africa as it did last year for people arrested in Peru, Nigeria and India when the epidemic first emerged.
«The situation is developing rapidly and additional measures affecting flights may be taken at short notice,» she said.
Paul Donnelly was due to fly home from Dublin from Cape Town on Friday night after spending a week in South Africa for work. He received a text message from Air France on his way to the airport stating that his flight to Paris had been cancelled. Then he discovered that the next available flight to Paris was one week away. Eventually he found a flight through Amsterdam and booked «pretty much the last seat outside Cape Town on KLM».
He said that despite the international chaos unfolding around border closures and flight cancellations, the atmosphere at Cape Town’s airport on Saturday was calm and orderly. Mr Donnelly, who arrived home on Sunday afternoon, will now isolate at his family’s home for 10 days. Having seen South Africa’s news reports over the weekend, he said there is a sense of frustration at blaming the country for this latest release.
South Africans may see themselves at the forefront of medical scientific research and genomic surveillance. They kind of felt like they were being punished for picking up this and full disclosure.”
He added that the UK’s decision to immediately close its borders to travel to South Africa was a real slap in the face. “The UK is the biggest inland tourism partner for people trying to get some winter sun. If everything stops, the economy will go through terrible times.”
Professor Tulio de Oliveira, who announced the news of the Omicron type last week, took to Twitter and urged the international community not to «discriminate or isolate» South Africa for being the country that sounded the alarm. «We’ve been very transparent about the scientific information,» he wrote on Twitter. «We’ve identified the data, made it public and sounded the alarm as infections increased. We did this to protect our country and the world despite the potential for massive discrimination.”
He added in a tweet on Twitter that the world’s billionaires must unite together to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable people have access to a vaccine in order to combat Covid and «eliminate the variables».
Meanwhile, Ireland’s women’s cricket team is currently stuck in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, after the World Cup qualifier match in Zimbabwe was canceled due to Covid restrictions.
Cricket Ireland spokesman Craig Isdown told The Irish Times that the International Cricket Council has been taking charter flights to help teams, including the Irish women’s team, stranded due to recent travel restrictions.
«The [Irish] A team in Namibia with future travel plans currently in the works,” said Mr. Isdown. “It has been a very fluid situation but we hope they will be back home within the next 48 hours.”
Monster rugby team confirmed on Sunday that a member of their squad has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus in South Africa.
The county was preparing to leave Cape Town for Dublin on a chartered flight on Sunday, along with other United Rugby League (URC) teams leaving South Africa.
However, they will not be traveling now, after a round of PCR testing yielded one positive result.
«In taking all precautions and prioritizing everyone’s health and well-being, Monster Rugby will not be traveling today and will return to the hotel for a period of isolation as a matter of priority,» Monster’s statement said. «The county will await further guidance from health authorities.»
A URC spokesperson said the situation on Sunday evening around the team’s travel remained «volatile».
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