The Irish government has extended its visa-free travel ban against South Africa and some South American countries due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and its spread.

According to the Irish Times, the country’s Minister of Justice Helen McEntee said that the ban will be extended until “it is no longer needed for public health reasons”.

She added that the measures are designed to support current public health restrictions on movement and the decision to introduce the ban was made based on expert public health advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

“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,” McEntee 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 of January 27, a new visa requirement was introduced for South African passport holders wishing to travel to Ireland.

Currently, it is illegal for anyone, regardless of nationality or passport, to travel within Ireland for anything besides a non-essential purpose. If caught, the traveller 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.

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Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.