No travel ban from Britain as Christmas gatherings reduced to a single day in NI

The NI Executive has reduced the period during which people can get together over Christmas down to a single day, but has not agreed to ban travel from Britain in line with the Republic.

Monday, 21st December 2020, 7:36 am
Updated Monday, 21st December 2020, 7:38 am

The decision announced in the early hours of Monday morning stopped short of banning travel from Britain into the north of Ireland, despite other countries across Europe including the Republic of Ireland imposing travel bans in light of an aggressive new strain of the virus spreading rapidly through parts of south east England. Scotland has also effectively closed its border with England and has banned travel from the rest of the UK.

There has also been no change to plans to reopen schools in the north in the New Year, however the Executive has said that “Health and Education officials continue to liaise closely to consider how schools can operate as safely as possible”.

The Northern Ireland Executive said it has taken the “difficult decision” to limit the arrangements for people to come together over Christmas.

Waterloo Place Christmas lights on Sunday evening last. DER2048GS - 007

Christmas bubbling will now be reduced to one day only on a date between 23 and 27 December, to ensure flexibility for those working on Christmas Day to choose an alternative day that suits best.

At an extraordinary Executive meeting which began on Sunday night and ran into Monday morning, Ministers discussed the progression of the pandemic and were updated by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor on the emergence and rapid spread of the new variant strain of the virus.

In their statement issued this morning the Ministers said: “The safest place for everyone to spend Christmas is in their own home and people are strongly advised to stay at home for Christmas. Those who feel they need to meet with their bubble should keep it as small as possible, as close to home as possible and keep the visit short.

“Follow public health advice rigorously. Keep your contacts to an absolute minimum; keep your distance; wear a face covering; and wash your hands.

“The Executive is urging everyone to travel only if it is absolutely necessary. Travel is not permitted in or out of Tier 4 areas in England. “Restrictions apply in other tier areas. Everyone should comply with all travel restrictions in place for each region and check the guidance at both the point of departure and destination.”

The Executive did discuss the issue of restricting travel and Ministers said they have “agreed to consider this further when they next meet”.

“As this is a rapidly evolving situation, the Executive will continue to keep all matters under review,” they added.