Covid-19: Only small number from Republic travel to NI in search of vaccine

Northern Ireland significantly ahead of the Republic in its vaccination programme

Many people, particularly in Border areas, live in the Republic but work in Northern Ireland and are registered with GPs there. File photograph: Getty

Many people, particularly in Border areas, live in the Republic but work in Northern Ireland and are registered with GPs there. File photograph: Getty

 

Only a small number of people from the Republic of Ireland who are ineligible for vaccination in the North have attempted to cross the Border for the vaccine, it is understood.

This is despite claims that people living in the Republic who may have been previously registered with a GP in the North have been able to secure an injection in Northern Ireland.

The head of the North’s vaccination programme, Patricia Donnelly, previously told The Irish Times she was aware of “significantly less than 10” reports of people from the Republic booking an appointment online but being turned away when they arrived at the vaccination centre.

“They haven’t had a health and social care number, they haven’t been able to have their vaccine administered so we have turned them away,” she said.

The North is significantly ahead of the Republic in its vaccination programme, which is open to everyone in the general population aged over 50, as well as specific groups including healthcare workers and the clinically vulnerable.

According to the latest data a total of 746,254 doses of coronavirus vaccine have so far been administered in the North, which includes 667,758 first doses.

The North’s Department of Health said on Monday that anyone being vaccinated “must be registered with a GP in Northern Ireland and have a Northern Ireland health care number [HCN].”

If they do not know their number when booking a vaccination slot, it will be looked up at the vaccination centre before vaccination takes place, the department said. “Those without a Northern Ireland HCN will not be vaccinated.”

However people living in the Republic of Ireland who are eligible for healthcare in the North, and health and social care workers in Northern Ireland who live in the South, have been able to receive their injections in the North since the vaccination programme began.

Many people, particularly in Border areas, live in the Republic but work in Northern Ireland and are registered with GPs there.

While individuals need to enter their address while booking a vaccination slot, an address in the Republic of Ireland “wouldn’t automatically rule you out from receiving the vaccine,” the department said.

“Any citizens of the Republic of Ireland employed as a health and social care worker in Northern Ireland would have been entitled to receive the vaccine as a part of the health work force in Northern Ireland.”

One further death

The death of one more person with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland was announced in Northern Ireland on Monday, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,105. A further 87 people tested positive for the virus.

In the North’s hospitals 160 people with Covid-19 are receiving treatment, with 15 in intensive care.

The rest of the North’s primary school pupils as well as senior post-primary students returned to class on Monday in a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions in force in Northern Ireland.

Children in primary four to seven, and those in the final three years of post-primary education from Years 12-14 – resumed face-to-face learning for the first time since December.

The youngest primary school pupils returned two weeks ago, on March 8th and, depending on the public health situation, the remaining year groups are due to return after the Easter holidays.

Trials of lateral flow testing for Covid-19 for staff and older students also began in schools on Monday, ahead of a full rollout after Easter.

The North’s Minister for Education, DUP MLA Peter Weir, described it as a “very good day” for education and a “significant milestone in the return to a normalised educational environment”.

He said it had been a “very challenging period”, adding that “given the significant disruption to our children’s learning and mental health our focus now must be educational and wellbeing support.”

The minister said his focus would now be on developing plans to help children catch up, and he would bring forward proposals on summer school provision to the North’s Executive. Additional reporting – PA