Stormont advises against all non-essential travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain

22 December 2020, 00:44

The Northern Ireland Executive is deciding whether to impose a travel ban on the rest of the UK
The Northern Ireland Executive is deciding whether to impose a travel ban on the rest of the UK. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The Northern Ireland Executive has decided to advise against non-essential travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain as the new Covid-19 strain continues to spread.

Ministers called an emergency late-night meeting on Monday to debate introducing a temporary travel ban between the two islands - bringing forward the meeting that was due to be held on Tuesday morning.

Health minister Robin Swann recommended issuing guidance advising against non-essential travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, in response to the new variant.

Read more: Public health chiefs urge Tier 4 visitors to self-isolate

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The minister also advised anyone arriving into the region self-isolate for ten days.

The group agreed, without a formal vote, to support Mr Swann's recommendation to officially issue the guidance before meeting again on Tuesday.

The meeting, called last-minute at 10pm, went on for several hours and revealed further splits between the governing parties over how to respond to the pandemic.

Finance minister Conor Murphy circulated a written response to Mr Swann's suggesting expressing "dismay and astonishment" that he is not moving immediately to instigate a ban on travel between NI and GB.

Read more: France and UK working to reopen border to freight 'as fast as possible'

But the Sinn Fein politician's motion was shot down by the late-night group via a vote on Teams.

The DUP argued the UK internal travel is already banned from Tier 4 areas in England so there is no need for added legislation.

The party also said the responsibility for stopping flights and ferries within the UK is an issue for the UK government.