North’s First and Deputy First Minister to write to Government on international travel

Further 627 Covid-19 cases in North on Thursday, but no additional deaths recorded

First Minister Paul Givan (right) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said they were “conscious that other jurisdictions are making changes to their own regulations and requirements over the coming weeks”. Photographs: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

First Minister Paul Givan (right) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said they were “conscious that other jurisdictions are making changes to their own regulations and requirements over the coming weeks”. Photographs: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

The North’s First and Deputy First Minister are to write to the Irish Government to “resolve any anomalies” over international travel arrangements.

“We are aware that people here depart and arrive through airports based across the island, and for public safety and clear messaging it would be beneficial to all to have co-operation and consistency,” they said following a meeting of the Northern Executive on Thursday.

At the meeting ministers discussed the Covid-19 rules in force in the North, and agreed to a number of further relaxations, subject to ratification on July 22nd.

This included a change to the rules on travel from certain international destinations. From July 26th arrivals from “amber list” countries who have been fully vaccinated in the UK will not have to self-isolated or take a day eight test post-arrival.

The amber list currently includes popular holiday destinations such as France and Spain.

A further 627 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the North on Thursday, according to the Department of Health in Northern Ireland. There were no additional deaths.

Other measures due to come into effect from July 26th include the return of audiences to theatres and concert halls, while MOT (NCT) centres can resume normal services.

Social distancing rules will be cut from two metres to one metre indoors, and scrapped altogether outdoors.

The requirement for the wearing of face coverings in places of worship will change from regulation to guidance only.

However, the North will not follow the path set by England, which is due to remove most of the Covid-19 rules from July 19th, including social distancing requirements and mandatory face coverings indoors.

In a statement issued after Thursday’s meeting, the First and Deputy First Ministers said they were “conscious that other jurisdictions are making changes to their own regulations and requirements over the coming weeks”.

“It is important to make clear that the decisions taken by the Executive today have been taken in a local context and are those which apply here,” they said.

Face coverings

Measures not included in Thursday’s decisions, such as the rules around face coverings, will be considered in more detail at the Executive’s meeting on August 12th, when it will also consider issues including those around working from home, remaining mitigations in the hospitality sector, the return of further and higher education and the return of live music and dancing without restrictions.

The First Minister, the DUP’s Paul Givan, said his party had wanted to see some steps taken more quickly.

“It’s clear on some issues we would like to see progress being made at a faster pace and we believe that that’s backed up by all of the data and the scientific evidence, the impact on our economy, the impact on family and wider society that these changes can happen at a faster rate,” he said.

“Other ministers have decided that they want to move forward at a slower pace so we did land on a road map which now has July 26th as a very significant date.”

the Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, said ministers had agreed a “cautious” but “steady” and “balanced” way forward which in her opinion was the right one.

“We ourselves as an Executive, based on our own information, on our own data, have taken decisions today that demonstrates progress, demonstrates that we’re able to continue to make some easements,” said Ms O’Neill.