Northern Ireland news

Coronavirus rate in Derry and Donegal continues to rise

A sign close to the Strabane/Lifford border in Co Tyrone warns against unnecessary journeys amid concerns over rising Covid cases. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

COVID infections in the north west have continued to climb as new restrictions aim to curb the spread of the virus in Co Donegal.

Figures published yesterday showed the 14-day rate in Donegal had risen to 185.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Cases in the Derry and Strabane council area also continue to rise and at 235 cases per 100,000 are now more than double the Northern Ireland average of 80.

There were a further 63 cases recorded yesterday, the highest for any council area in the north.

Strict travel limits came into effect in Donegal at midnight on Friday, with political leaders on both sides of the border joining chief medical officers in appealing to people not to travel to the county.

Gardaí did not impose the same semi-permanent border checkpoints as they did in March and April, opting for spot checks in areas of east Donegal in particular where coronavirus cases are highest.

Inspector David Durkin appealed to people in Northern Ireland to use their “moral conscience” and not to travel to Co Donegal.

There were early indications that the appeals were effective with a significant downturn in cross border traffic since Saturday.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) – which measures traffic flow using counters set into roads – reported a dramatic drop in vehicle numbers.

The number using the main Strabane to Lifford border crossing fell by more than half at the weekend, while numbers also fell on the Derry to Bridgend crossing and the Belleek-Ballyshannon road.

However, the economic impact of the Level 3 restrictions have also been biting across Co Donegal, with more hotels losing business as visitors cancelled reservations.

All Ireland winning Donegal manager Brian McEniff announced on Saturday that he would be closing two of his three hotels in Bundoran for the season.

He said he would attempt to keep the Holyrood hotel open but would close the Allingham Arms and Great Northern Hotel.

It was also confirmed yesterday that more than 30 people employed at the Clanree hotel in Letterkenny are to lose their jobs due to the virus and restrictions.

Manager Michael Naughton said while the hotel would remain open, they had little option but to let staff go.

“It's unfortunate that more that 30 people had to get that news today but hopefully there will be brighter days ahead and we can bring them all back whenever things improve,” he said.

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