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Editor's Viewpoint

Travel rules must be clarified by Stormont



Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw

As this newspaper has already pointed out, it makes no sense for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to have two different lists of countries where they feel it is safe for people to travel to or from without having to quarantine.

But such is the fast changing face of travel regulations that people in Northern Ireland are not even sure if they can travel abroad at all. For the advice from Stormont is that members of the public should not travel abroad until the trip is essential.

Yet First Minister Arlene Foster says it is not up to the Executive to tell people what they should or should not do when it comes to deciding on their holidays.

Surely that is the wrong position to adopt. Northern Ireland managed to contain the spread of coronavirus better than any other region of the UK purely because the Executive laid down strict lockdown rules and people, to their credit, adhered to them.

We are not suggesting in any form that a holiday lockdown should be imposed, but there needs to be absolute clarity over what is permissable and where may be too risky to travel to.

This may seem to be childlike logic but it is obviously a necessary step given the controversy over Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw's holiday plans yesterday.

In the morning she defended her decision to go on a family break to an all-inclusive hotel in Italy having strictly observed all the rules since the outbreak of coronavirus in Northern Ireland and having exhaustively researched the rules in operation in Italy.

But when it was pointed out to the MLA - who is a member of the Assembly's scrutiny Health Committee - that government advice was not to travel unless the trip was essential, she later announced that she was cancelling her foreign break.

It has to be pointed out that Ms Bradshaw never tried to hide her holiday intentions nor had she broken any regulations. However when someone in her position - especially given her scrutiny role - is unclear on the regulations governing holidays abroad, then members of the public must also be puzzled.

She has done the right thing in cancelling her holiday - probably at a financial loss - as she does not want to give the impression that there is one rule for politicians and another for the public.

But the rules urgently need clarified so everyone is clear what they can or cannot do.

Belfast Telegraph