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Coronavirus: Steve Aiken says Ulster Unionist MLAs won't be going on foreign holidays... but refuses to tell public to do the same

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UUP leader Steve Aiken

UUP leader Steve Aiken

UUP leader Steve Aiken

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said neither he, nor any of his party's representatives, will be going on foreign holidays this year - but stopped short of instructing members of the public to do the same.

His comments come after a spotlight was shone on the Executive's Covid-19 holiday rules on Monday, with Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw stating that she would be going on a holiday to Italy this weekend, only to backtrack hours later.

According to the official advice on the NI Direct website, you must only travel abroad if the trip is "essential".

The website also lists, however, some 60 countries where you can visit without being required on self-isolate on your return.

This has led to confusion as to what is permitted by law and what is simply advised.

On Tuesday morning, Steve Aiken said there is "an issue with the guidelines" surrounding foreign travel, however it is important the they are followed as closely as possible.

He added it was not his job to "dictate" to the public if and where they should go on their holidays.

"I'm not going on any foreign holidays, none of my MLAs are going on any holidays outside our country, and it is up to people to make their own minds up on this issue," he told the BBC.

"The guidelines are there for people to look at them and follow them and if you don't have a reason to be going (abroad), what I'm saying is, and the decision I am making myself, is I am not going anywhere, but it is up to people themselves."

When pressed, Mr Aiken refused to state that the public should not go on foreign holidays.

"What I am telling the citizens of Northern Ireland is - follow the guidance. I am not going to dictate to them what they should do," he said.

"It is up to the people of Northern Ireland to make that decision, that's what the guidelines are for. If you breach the guidelines, or if you breach the rules and regulations, you are very likely to increase the spread of [Covid-19]."

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Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw

Mr Aiken also raised concerns regarding travellers from the US arriving in Dublin, arguing that the R rate of coronavirus, the reproductive rate, is higher in the Republic than in Great Britain.

"One of the things we should be more worried about on this island is the fact that even this morning, there are direct flights coming from the southern United States into Dublin," he said.

"There doesn't seem to be any checks and balances and controls there."

Following the controversy surround Paula Bradshaw on Monday, First Minister Arlene Foster said foreign travel is down to individual judgement.

"It's not up to me to tell people should they go or should they not go," she said.

"If they have booked a holiday and they (the destination) are on the green or amber list, then they can go without having to quarantine when they come back.

"Whether they go or not is entirely a matter for their own judgment."

Mrs Foster said Stormont officials were seeking to "tidy up" coronavirus regulations to keep them in line with recent decisions taken by the Executive.

Belfast Telegraph