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First Minister Foster dismisses aligning Northern Ireland quarantine rules with Republic as a 'red herring'

Arlene Foster has poured cold water over suggestions that Northern Ireland and the Republic should adopt the same quarantine rules.

The First Minister's comments came amid warnings from experts that differences on either side of the border will spark a second surge of coronavirus.

Mrs Foster told the Belfast Telegraph that it was more important to deal with the transmission of Covid-19 rather than focus energy on "what is frankly a red herring".

When asked by this newspaper if there was merit in having the same quarantine rules both here and the Republic she replied with an emphatic "no".

"Historically we've had the common travel area between Ireland and Great Britain and that has existed since the 1940s and it has served us very well," she said.

"It would be wrong to say to people - we are one country, the United Kingdom, it would be wrong to start splitting up the country.

"What we're trying to do is to instead look at how we deal with localised outbreaks, so learning the lessons of Leicester, Gretna Green, places like that, that have had clusters and indeed the Republic of Ireland, which has had clusters as well.

"It's important that we look at what is important and that is the transmission of Covid-19 and how we deal with that as opposed to going off in a direction which is frankly a red herring."

Epidemiologist Gabriel Scally, is a member of the independent Sage committee, which is separate to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) that advises the UK Government on health matters.

He told the Belfast Telegraph the current separate approaches by Northern Ireland and the Republic will be problematic for health officials in the coming months.

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First Minister Arlene Foster (right) with Colin Johnston, Galgorm Collection managing director. Pic Liam McBurney/PA Wire

First Minister Arlene Foster (right) with Colin Johnston, Galgorm Collection managing director. Pic Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

First Minister Arlene Foster (right) with Colin Johnston, Galgorm Collection managing director. Pic Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Mrs Foster was speaking during a visit at the Galgorm Spa and Golf resort just outside Ballymena, which unveiled its new £2million expansion project.

The newly-reopened resort's new offerings include a 10 metre infinity pool, a 200m2 Palm House relaxation area and a brand new Salt Room for halotherapy experiences.

With over 90% of its Thermal Village and Spa located outdoors, Galgorm has also installed two group hot tubs and saunas, three additional private hot tubs with waterfall views and six brand new riverside cabanas.

The spa expansion, which started in March, is the latest investment in the resort, which has seen a £60m transformation in the last decade.

There are further plans to invest an additional £20m in Galgorm by 2025.

Belfast Telegraph