Northern Ireland news

Travellers need negative test for Covid before they arrive in Northern Ireland

Eileen Lynch (94) receives the first of two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, administered by Dr Michael McKenna, at Falls Surgery on the Falls Road, Belfast, earlier this month. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/Press Association

INTERNATIONAL travellers will need to test negative for Covid-19 before they arrive in Northern Ireland.

The new measure will be introduced on Thursday, health minister Robin Swann announced last night.

The move comes as hospitals across the north are bracing themselves for a surge in admissions as the third wave of cases reaches its peak this week.

Under new rules, travellers will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test result, taken within 72 hours before departure, to their transport operator.

READ MORE: Doctors 'exhausted and deeply demoralised' ahead of expected surge in Covid-19 admissions

Operators can be fined up to £10,000 if they allow people to travel without proof of a negative test.

If a traveller arrives in Northern Ireland without the necessary proof, and without a reasonable excuse, they will be fined.

Fines will start at £500.

Mr Swann said: "This additional measure will provide another layer of protection to help reduce the risk of imported infections, while national lockdown and vaccination take effect."

On Saturday, new rules stated that travellers arriving into the Republic's ports and airports need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

Travellers need to prove they have tested negative for Covid-19 before they will be allowed into Northern Ireland. File picture by Peter Byrne, Press Association

Meanwhile, a further 25 coronavirus deaths have been recorded in Northern Ireland - the second highest daily figure since the outbreak of the pandemic.

According to figures from the Department of Health, 1,606 people have lost their lives.

There have been a further 822 positive cases, with 67 people in intensive care and 50 people on ventilators.

A total of 840 patients are being treated.

The Republic's Department of Health announced 60 more Covid-related deaths and 3,231 new cases of the virus on Saturday.

A further 13 deaths were reported yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,608.

The Republic also reported a further 2,944 positive cases, bringing the total number of cases to 172,726.

Joe O'Brien, minister of state for community development, told RTÉ yesterday that capacity in intensive care units had been increased in preparation for an expected surge in admissions this week.

"It's going to be a very difficult week ahead I suspect, possibly the most challenging week for the health service almost in its history," he said.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan urged people to stick to the restrictions.

"We are seeing people of all ages being admitted to hospital and being taken into intensive care units," he said.

"The levels of infection are such that your chances of transmitting or getting Covid-19 are very high, and we know that a proportion of those cases will lead to serious illness and mortality.

"There is no group who should feel the public health advice does not apply to them. It is only if we act together that we can keep ourselves, our loved ones, and health and social care facilities safe."

The Republic's Health Service Executive (HSE) warned that the Covid variant first identified in the UK could account for up to 70 per cent of new cases by the end of this week as it continues to spread aggressively through all adult age groups.

The HSE said the B117 variant will become the dominant strain of the disease in the Republic “over the coming weeks”.

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Northern Ireland news