Northern Ireland to follow UK coronavirus red list on countries
Northern Ireland is set to adopt the UK’s coronavirus red list of countries, First Minister Arlene Foster has said.
Brazil and South Africa are on the current red list of countries from which entry to the UK is banned.
The Stormont Executive also heard that work is ongoing on hotel quarantine plans for travellers arriving from abroad.
There are currently no international flights landing in Northern Ireland.
Mrs Foster welcomed “improvements across all indicators”, in terms of Covid-19.
The R-rate for cases of the virus is currently estimated at between 0.75 and 0.95.
“I’m heartened to see our shared efforts are working because that means that more lives are being saved,” she said.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill welcomed a second consecutive day of no further coronavirus deaths as a “welcome sign we are continuing to move in the right direction”.
Ms O’Neill said international travel was discussed in some detail by the Executive.
“This is a fundamental concern for us all as we seek to manage the risks that are arising from the new variants and in line with the scientific and medical advice, we have agreed the introduction of managed isolation and hotel accommodation on return from red list countries for a period of 10 days to be pre-booked before arrival here,” she said.
“This will be kept under review and our arrangements for managed hotel isolation will be flexible to enable a broader approach on international travel to be put in place should the need arise.”
The Executive has also agreed to the limited reopening of SureStart and youth services.
The phased return will involve both statutory and voluntary youth work settings operating in line with any overarching restrictions permitted within educational settings relating to outdoor or indoor gatherings, group sizes, social distancing, face coverings and hand washing.
Business support schemes have also been extended for those who must remain closed in the ongoing restrictions.
Payments under the Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme and the Large Hospitality and Tourism Business Support Scheme will continue beyond March 31.
Hospitality Ulster chief Colin Neill said the extension of the schemes will be a “welcome relief to many within the hospitality sector”.
However he warned that even with the support as the industry remains closed, many businesses are “hanging on by their fingernails” and “running out of options to borrow more money to cover the shortfall”.
“Our continued call is for the Executive to provide clarity on the reopening criteria, give us indicative dates, and engage with us on the best and safest way for the industry to move forward and recover,” he said.
The Executive’s blueprint for exiting lockdown does not currently include any dates, with ministers having previously said it will be led by data.
Another 183 confirmed cases of the virus were recorded by the Department of Health in the last 24-hour reporting period on Thursday. while 153 Covid-positive confirmed inpatients in hospital, of whom 14 were in ICUs.
Meanwhile, the region’s vaccination programme passed three landmarks on Thursday.
The total number of vaccines administered has pushed past 800,000, while the number of first doses provided has passed 700,000 and the number of second doses has moved beyond 100,000.
Health Minister Robin Swann said more landmarks will be reached next week when a mass vaccination centre is opened at the SSE Arena in Belfast, and community pharmacists start administering vaccines.