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NI Executive urged to announce coronavirus air bridge policy

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Graham Keddie

Graham Keddie

PA

Graham Keddie

Belfast International Airport has urged the NI Executive to announce a policy on air bridges after the UK government statement omitted the devolved nations.

The UK’s Department for Transport last week announced which countries will benefit from so-called air bridges - which means people can fly back from them without having to quarantine for two weeks.

More than 70 countries and territories including Spain, France and Italy are on the list - but others which aren’t include Portugal, the US and Sweden.

But the Department for Transport in the UK has said it’s up to the devolved regions to set their own policy.

Graham Keddie, airport chief executive, said: “The decision by the UK Government to omit Northern Ireland and other UK regions from its air bridges announcement was deeply disappointing and frustrating.

“Unfortunately this has been further compounded by the silence from the NI Executive.

“The simple truth is that Northern Ireland’s omission leaves hundreds of jobs at risk at a time when the travel and tourism industry needs to see leadership and support from Government.

“This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency in order to save jobs and save our connectivity.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said it’s expecting a decision to be made in the coming days by the Executive.

“The Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 came into operation on June 8.

“Amendments to the Regulations are currently being considered and will be for the Executive to agree.

“The Health Minister expects a decision to be made in the coming days.”

Belfast International Airport has announced a programme of voluntary redundancies due to the impact of coronavirus on air travel.

At the end of May Mr Keddie said they expect to lose up to 45 employees out of a total workforce of 195.

He blamed the “devastating impact” of the pandemic.

Belfast Telegraph