Northern Ireland news

Cross-border travel restrictions will be examined by Irish government next month

The Irish government will look at cross-border travel restrictions next month. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
Claire Simpson and Press Association

A relaxation of cross-border travel restrictions will not be looked at by the Irish government until next month.

The Dublin government announced yesterday that a ban on inter-county travel will be lifted from December 18 to allow people to visit relatives at Christmas.

Up to three households in the Republic can also gather during the festive period.

But no formal announcement was made on cross-border travel.

It is understood the government will examine the issue again closer to December 18.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told The Irish News earlier this week there would be "no specific restrictions introduced on a north-south basis".

Concerns about the potential for closing the border had been triggered by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who had highlighted higher coronavirus infection rates in the north.

The Fine Gael leader said north-south travel was a "risk that we cannot ignore".

The Republic is to relax strict Covid restrictions from Tuesday. All shops, hairdressers, museums, libraries and gyms will be allowed to open from December 1.

Restaurants, cafes and gastropubs will follow around a week later despite warnings from the National Public Health Emergency Team that they should be allowed to serve takeaway orders only.

A further seven people have died from coronavirus in the Republic, according to latest figures. An additional 206 cases have been confirmed.

In an address yesterday evening, Mr Martin said there had been a “massive national effort” to push back the disease.

"It hasn't been easy," he said.

"Many individuals and businesses have made huge sacrifices. And many more are totally fed up with Covid-19 and everything that has come with it over the past nine months."

He said coronavirus has killed more than 3,000 people on this island.

"And behind that number, there are many thousands of partners, children, siblings and friends who are grieving," he said.

"There are also many people still struggling with the symptoms and after effects of Covid. We remember them; and the efforts and the sacrifices we have made over the course of this year, honours them."

Mr Martin added that the encouraging news is that those sacrifices are working and "lives have been saved".

The Republic's 14-day incidence rate of Covid-19 has fallen below 100 per 100,000.

Health minister Stephen Donnelly tweeted: "Just got the latest Covid figures and am delighted to share that for the first time in quite a while our 14 day incidence rate per 100k has fallen below 100 (98). And our 7-day is 40, suggesting our cases are still falling."

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