CAPE TOWN, (The Southern African Times) – The Irish government has extended its visa-free travel ban for South Africa and some South American countries due to concerns around Coivd-19.
Answering parliamentary questions, Ireland’s minister of Justice Helen McEntee said that the ban will be extended ‘until it is no longer needed for public health reasons’, the Irish Times reported.
The measures are designed to support current public health restrictions on movement – including into and out of Ireland – and the decision to introduce the ban was made based on expert public health advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team, McEntee said.
“The strong advice is that everyone, regardless of their nationality or visa/preclearance status, or where they started their travel from, who cannot provide proof of an essential purpose to travel to or within Ireland, should not travel to Ireland,” she said.
“Further visa requirements may be introduced to other non-EEA countries in the future, where they are deemed necessary and appropriate, to support public health measures approved by the government.”
As part of the Irish government’s efforts to tackle the pandemic, as of midnight on 27 January 2021, a new visa requirement was introduced for South African passport holders wishing to travel to Ireland.
It is currently against the law for any person – regardless of nationality or passport – to travel within Ireland for non-essential purposes and people can be fined for doing so.
The Irish Embassy said the situation will continue to be reviewed in consultation with the relevant authorities in the coming weeks.
“In the meantime, South African nationals should not at this time apply online for a visa unless the reason for travel falls into the priority/ emergency category,” it said.
A number of other countries have also indicated that travellers from South Africa will be barred from entering – a sign that the country could be facing reputational damage as a result of the 501Y.V2 variant of Covid-19, which has been referred to as the “South African variant” abroad.