All travellers arriving into Northern Ireland will now have to isolate for ten days after travel corridors were scrapped due to fears of new strains of Covid-19.
he isolation period can be shortened if passengers receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the region.
The new measures will apply to everyone travelling from nations outside the Common Travel Area (CTA) of the UK and Republic of Ireland.
The UK-wide move was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a Downing Street press conference on Friday.
“It’s precisely because we have the hope of that vaccine and the risk of new strains coming from overseas that we must take additional steps now to stop those strains from entering the country,” Mr Johnson said.
The move will come into effect from 4am on Monday and will last until at least February 15.
It was announced on Thursday that anyone travelling into Northern Ireland from outside the CTA would need a negative Covid-19 test within the past 72 hours.
UK travel was also banned from South America and Portugal due to risks from a new strain of Covid-19 first identified in Brazil.
There were 64 countries, islands and territories on Northern Ireland’s travel corridor list, allowing visitors to travel to the region without having to self-isolate.
The Department of Health has said that regulations and an amended list of exemptions is currently being developed and will be published over the weekend.
Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said that decisions around travel corridors were based on assessing the public health risk from SARS-COV-2 and not new strains.
He explained that given the risk posed by new strains of the virus travel corridors could not continue in the same way.
“It is not possible to predict with any certainty the risk that a particular country or region will be the originator of a variant of concern,” Dr McBride said.
“This move is designed to provide time within which to reassess the position on international travel and develop a system better able to respond to the risk of new variants, this work will be done in collaboration with the Scottish Government and Welsh Government.”
The Executive is also working with the UK Government to “facilitate urgent conversations with the Irish Government to improve data sharing from Dublin, to minimise the risk of a back door emerging through the land border”.
At Thursday’s Executive Covid-19 briefing First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill were critical of the Irish Government over their failure to share information from passenger locator forms.
— to www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk