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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Covid-19: NI Executive to meet over international traveller testing

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Belfast international airport

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The executive is to discuss plans to make international arrivals into NI produce a negative Covid-19 test before departure, BBC News NI has learned.

The proposals have been submitted by Health Minister Robin Swann.

Last week, he said he had agreed “in principle” to the move, but details were being worked out by officials.

People arriving from countries from countries not on the government’s travel corridors list will still have to self-isolate for 10 days.

The move has already been agreed in the Republic of Ireland, with passengers arriving there being subject to the new rules from Saturday.

Negative tests prior to arrival are already a requirement in the Republic of Ireland for passengers travelling from Great Britain and South Africa.

Stormont’s first and deputy first ministers spoke to the Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheal Martin about the issue on Wednesday evening, it is understood.

Thursday’s executive meeting will also see ministers get the latest assessment of the coronavirus situation in Northern Ireland.

Stormont health briefind

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Ministers have said they are “heartened” that the lockdown appears to be working, with NI’s R-number having fallen significantly since measures were introduced after Christmas.

However, the lag time between infections and hospital admissions means that the health service is expected to face sustained pressures for the rest of the month.

On Wednesday, health officials warned that levels of the new, more transmissible variant of the virus are rising.

Mr Swann warned that more “difficult decisions” on lockdown restrictions could be required.

Northern Ireland is in the third week of a six-week lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Supermarket

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The executive is due to review the current restrictions on 21 January.

Ministers have also expressed concerns about some larger retailers “gaming” the regulations and keeping open non-essential parts of their businesses.

A meeting between the first and deputy first ministers and representatives of the retail sector is due to happen on Friday afternoon.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy is also set to present a draft budget for the next financial year to the executive for approval at Thursday’s meeting.

Difficult decisions are expected there too, with Stormont departments trying to manage the pandemic while delivering on previously existing commitments.

Rates relief extension

On Wednesday, Mr Murphy said Northern Ireland was expecting in the region of £500m for 2021/22, compared with about £3bn it received in 2020/21 to deal with the financial effects of Covid-19.

The minister also wants to extend rates relief for businesses for at least a further six months to cope with the devastating economic impacts of lockdown.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon is expected to bring details of a new Covid financial support scheme for taxi drivers to Thursday’s meeting.

It is estimated it will cost up to £10m and will cover the period from October to March, providing additional payments to those who have already secured funding through the previous support scheme.

This post courtesy of uk-news

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