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International arrivals into NI will have to prove they are Covid-19 virus-free

Swann wants all travellers to show negative test results before entering

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Policy: Health Minister Robin Swann is working to implement new plans

Policy: Health Minister Robin Swann is working to implement new plans

Policy: Health Minister Robin Swann is working to implement new plans

Health minister Robin Swann has said he wants international arrivals into Northern Ireland to show negative Covid-19 test results.

The UUP minister said his officials are currently working with colleagues across the UK to resolve policy and operational issues around an effective implementation of the plans.

On Friday morning, it emerged that travellers arriving into England and Scotland would be expected to provide proof of a negative test and Mr Swann subsequently said: "I have agreed in principle to the proposed pre-departure testing regime for Northern Ireland.

"Officials are currently working with colleagues across the UK to resolve policy and operational issues around an effective implementation.

"This will strengthen our response to the changes seen in the transmission of the virus both domestically and across the globe.

"Taken together with the existing mandatory self-isolation period for passengers returning from high-risk countries, pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence - helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks."

Under the plans, people arriving by train, plane or boat, including UK nationals, will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country they are in.

It comes amid another day of dramatic developments in the pandemic, with latest figures showing the UK is sinking deeper into the lethal grips of the virus, recording its highest daily death toll.

A further 1,325 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test - a new daily record since the crisis began.

In Northern Ireland, a further 20 Covid deaths have been recorded, with 1,500 new cases diagnosed - bringing to 11,075 people testing positive over the previous seven days. Figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) on Friday also show there were 206 Covid-related deaths here over the Christmas period.

The total number of recorded deaths linked to the virus now stands at 1,895.

Meanwhile, approval has finally been granted by UK regulators to the Moderna vaccine.

According to clinical studies, the jab - which must be stored at minus 20 degrees - is more than 94% effective at protecting people from becoming ill with Covid-19.

Costing around £25 per dose, Northern Ireland is on course to receive 142,500 doses.

Welcoming news that a third Covid vaccine has been approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), DUP MLA and vice-chair of the Stormont health committee, Pam Cameron, said it was a "significant boost" at a time when hospitals are operating beyond capacity.

She continued: "The health minister has previously indicated that a finite supply of doses of the vaccine is a restricting factor toward expanding the reach of vaccinations locally.

"It is vital as more supply becomes available nationally that distribution to Northern Ireland is fair and smooth, staff numbers are strengthened and infrastructure increased to scale-up the number of people receiving this vital protection.

"I have already indicated that the vaccination programme in Northern Ireland should be a 24/7 round the clock service.

"There should be no limits on our ambition or what can be achieved.

"The approval of the Moderna vaccine can help make that vision a reality, protecting our NHS, safeguarding the most vulnerable and saving lives."

Belfast Telegraph


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