Robin Swann says Covid-19 risk 'too great to delay' quarantine for travellers from Spain
Health minister Robin Swann has said evidence supporting a 14-day quarantine for those arriving in the north from Spain was "so strong that delay was not feasible".
Appearing before the assembly to answer an urgent oral question about his decision to introduce the quarantine, Mr Swann told MLAs that his decision was supported by the Executive and had been based on detailed scientific information.
"The evidence was considered so strong that delay was not feasible, the risk to the Northern Ireland population was too great to delay another day," he said.
"I will continue to make decisions based on scientific information to determine which countries may be removed or added to the exemption list and will move quickly to remove any country when the evidence supports this.
"The health and safety of the people of Northern Ireland is my main priority."
Referring to a meeting of the Executive which was held earlier, Mr Swann said the new quarantine was the only item on the agenda.
"The Department for the Economy and the minister for the economy is now engaging with employers to make sure there is flexible support to those people who have been in Spain and now face a 14-day quarantine," he said.
"The Department for the Economy is also going to engage with the travel insurers. The Department of Finance and the minister of finance is going to engage with his counterparts in Westminster in regards to furlough to see if anyone who had been furloughed could re-engage with furlough when they do return from Spain, so that there is as many support mechanisms in place as possible.
"Again the minister for communities will see what additional packages of support that are within the remit of the Northern Ireland Executive, and the Executive Office will look at updating information on NI Direct so that anyone who is currently in Spain or intending to go to Spain can actually get all that information in one central location."
EasyJet runs the flights which currently operate between Northern Ireland and Spain.
A spokeswoman said it is too early to say whether passenger numbers have been affected by the quarantine announcement, but added the airline will continue to operate its full schedule in the coming days while monitoring the situation closely.