DUBLIN, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) — The Irish government on Sunday evening announced a ban on all flights arriving into Ireland from Britain with effect from midnight of Sunday, in response to the identification of a new strain of COVID-19 in the southwest of England.

Leaders of the Irish government held discussions on Sunday and decided that in the interests of public health, people in Britain, regardless of nationality, should not travel to Ireland, by air or sea, according to a statement published on the government’s website.

Flights will be banned for at least 48 hours and the ban will be reviewed by the government at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, said the statement.

Ferry crossings between Ireland and Britain will continue in order to keep essential supply chains moving, said the statement, adding that the government’s direction for people not to travel from Britain to Ireland does not extend to essential supply chain workers.

Arrangements are being put in place to facilitate the repatriation of Irish residents on short trips to Britain and planning to return in the coming days, as well as international travellers to Ireland who are transiting through Britain, it added.

Earlier in the day, the Irish Department of Health reported another 764 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, the highest daily figure recorded since early November.

To date, there have been a total of 79,542 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ireland with 2,158 deaths, said the department.

“Every indicator of disease severity is moving in the wrong direction, more rapidly than we had anticipated. We have particularly strong concerns about the prospect of inter-generational mixing around the festive season,” said Tony Holohan, chief medical officer of the Irish Department of Health, in a statement released on Sunday evening.

According to Holohan, the 7-day incidence rate for people aged 19-44 in the country had more than doubled to 217 per 100,000 population over the past week compared with the previous week.

“We have the very real prospect of COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon. Ensure that your loved ones stay alive to receive them, by keeping your distance from them,” he said.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Dec. 16, there were 222 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 56 of them were in clinical trials.

A couple of vaccines developed by pharmaceutical companies from the United States, Germany, Russia and China have so far been authorized by several countries and regions for emergency use.