Covid-19: Only slight dip in Border traffic despite crackdown

Volume of vehicles on six Border roads drops by 1.2 per cent in last week, data shows

A Garda checkpoint on the approach to the Border town of Lifford, Co Donegal. File photograph: Joe Dunne

A Garda checkpoint on the approach to the Border town of Lifford, Co Donegal. File photograph: Joe Dunne

 

Traffic volumes near the Border have seen a marginal fall in the past week despite the Government’s warning of a crackdown on non-essential travel from the North.

There was an average drop of just 1.2 per cent in the amount of traffic on six Border roads monitored by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) over the last week.

Traffic was up by 6 per cent on the main M1 artery on Wednesday compared with the previous week – the day after the Government announced plans for tougher measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Those measures include Garda checkpoints in a 5km buffer zone around the Border and the prospect of fines for residents of the North caught travelling without a valid reason. Gardaí are also to be given the power to order residents from the North who are in breach of the rules to return home.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has signed regulations dealing with the issue of non-essential cross-Border travel and extending the rules to people not ordinarily resident in the State. However, it is unclear what level of checkpoints have been set up near the Border or when the Garda will begin imposing fines or telling people to return to the North.

The Department of Health did not respond to queries on the matter on Wednesday night.

The Garda said it had implemented static and roving checkpoints to monitor compliance with travel restrictions but would not say if these had been carried out near the Border or how many had been carried out.

A spokeswoman said: “An Garda Síochána do not confirm locations of any checkpoints for operational reasons.”

Analysis

The Irish Times analysed statistics, published by TII, on traffic volumes during weekday mornings on six roads in Border areas. They are the M1 at Jonesborough, Co Louth, the N2 north of Monaghan, the N3 north of Belturbet, Co Cavan, the N13 and N15 in Donegal and the N16 east of Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim.

The analysis shows an average drop in traffic volumes across all six roads of 1.2 per cent over the days monitored since Wednesday last week.

Traffic volumes were up on four of the six roads on Wednesday by between 1 per cent (N16) and 9 per cent (N15) compared with the previous Wednesday, January 27th.

All of the roads show a significant decrease compared with a period in October when Level 3 Covid-19 restrictions were in place rather than the current Level 5 rules. However, the trend over the last week suggests the Government’s latest announcement on travel restrictions has made little difference to travel near the Border.

Asked at a press conference on Wednesday if he was aware that gardaí set up checkpoints within 5km of the Border, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said: “There have been ongoing checkpoints . . . over the last period of time and I do understand the gardaí are stepping that up now as well.”

A Garda statement said regulations that say a person may not leave their residence without a reasonable excuse were amended on February 1st to include people not ordinarily resident in the State.

It said the Garda is “currently engaging with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the courts service in respect of the implementation of these new regulations”.