Stormont to consider report that UK travellers pose greatest covid-19 risk

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By Michael McHugh, PA

Stormont ministers are to consider a report warning that travellers from the rest of the UK present the greatest risk of bringing Covid-19 into Northern Ireland.

Their meeting on Thursday is expected to review international travel regulations.

At present travellers arriving in Northern Ireland from outside the UK and Republic of Ireland have to quarantine for 14 days.

Health restrictions like quarantine are set by each part of the UK separately.

From Friday passengers entering England from many countries will not have to self-isolate following the establishment of "air bridges" with areas with an acceptable level of risk.

Northern Ireland's rate of infection has been running at less than one person infected by each new case.

A Department of Health statement said: "The Health Minister said that decisions around travel restrictions is a matter for the Executive and he wants to see this resolved at the next meeting on Thursday.

"The department would have no comment to make on the content of Executive papers."

In a joint statement, Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, and Simon Hamilton, chief executive of Belfast Chamber of Commerce, said connectivity was vital to economic success and will be intrinsic to the post-coronavirus recovery in the weeks and months ahead.

"As other countries begin to open up again in a safe and controlled way, we need our ministers to open up these crucial travel links which will give business a fighting chance," the statement read.

"The past few months have been challenging for everyone but as restrictions are eased it is time now to get back to some sense of normality - allowing our airports to operate fuller services, with more airplanes in the sky, will go some way in this regard."

EasyJet have already started opening up a number of flights to and from mainland Europe from Belfast International Airport, with further routes expected next month.

The business organisations added: "Our airports are the lifeblood of industry. Regional connectivity is crucial, and it is important that these routes are restored to full capacity also.

"Great Britain is our largest tourism market and without that regional connectivity, our sectors will take a real hammering."

No further deaths have been recorded with Covid-19, the Department of Health said, leaving the total number of people who have died at 554.

Another four positive cases have been notified since Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the region to 5,765, according to the department.

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