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Moves to restrict cross-border travel to Donegal for three-week period due to rise in Covid cases

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Senior health officials on both sides of the border are set to coordinate their plans today to restrict travel between Northern Ireland and Donegal.

It comes after the Irish Government announced plans to tighten its coronavirus restrictions in the county.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said Donegal would move to risk level three of his government’s plan to deal with Covid-19.

He spoke to Stormont leaders Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill about the issue last night, and agreed on the need for “a pragmatic and practical” policy aimed at reducing travel between the jurisdictions except for work, education or exempted reasons, RTE reported.

Donegal has the highest Covid infection rate in the Republic, while its cross-border neighbour Derry City and Strabane District Council has the worst on the island.

The Chief Medical Officers for both countries will discuss measure this morning.

The latest measures will be imposed at midnight and will remain in place for three weeks until October 16.

Speaking at Government Buildings, Mr Martin said: “I wish I was bringing better news this evening. That said, we can and we will get through this.”

But the Taoiseach said if everyone decided to take responsibility then there would be nothing inevitable about escalation of the virus. It will mean the county will be under similar restrictions to the Irish capital with one main exception.

Under the new restrictions wet pubs will be allowed to stay open but they will only be able to serve outdoors with a maximum of 15 people.

Restaurants, cafes and pubs that serve food will be allowed to remain open for takeaway and delivery services, as well as outdoor dining for a maximum of 15 people.

Six visitors from one other household will be permitted into a private home. All other indoor gatherings have been banned and outdoor gatherings should have a maximum of 15 people. Religious services will move online with the exception of funerals and weddings where 25 people will be allowed.

People living in Co Donegal should remain in the county.

The rest of the country will remain on level two restrictions except Dublin, which was placed on level three on September 19 for a period of three weeks.

The restrictions come as 324 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the Republic by the Department of Health. Three further deaths due to the virus were reported.

Mrs O’Neill said the situation in Donegal showed the need for an all-island approach to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, in Strabane GAA kit supplier O’Neills yesterday confirmed that it has closed a section of its production unit for a deep clean after five confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the workforce.

It said that a further 21 employees from the Dublin Road facility were also self-isolating as a precautionary measure.

Belfast Telegraph