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Donnelly rejects NI counterpart's call to stop cross-border travel

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann had sought measures to stop non-essential cross-border journeys.
May 9th 2021, 3:33 PM 40,769 21

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said he would not support restrictions on cross-border travel.

Donnelly said he did not think the Covid-19 situation in border counties currently warranted the measure.

Last week Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann wrote to Donnelly calling for a halt to non-essential cross-border travel, insisting it should be done “by enforcement if required”.

The letter was written after recent surges in infection numbers in Donegal and across the border in the Derry City and Strabane council area.

Donnelly said the spikes in Donegal were largely confined to two specific electoral areas and he said the infection rates were now on a downward trajectory again.

From Monday, a lockdown restriction preventing non-essential travel between counties will lift in the Irish Republic.

alcohol-pricing Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Source: Niall Carson/PA

“We have an open border, a very open border on the island,” Donnelly told RTE Radio One.

I don’t want to see that change, the Irish Government does not want to see that change. I believe that the island is doing very well, both north and south, at the moment and actually Donegal is doing quite well.

Donnelly said a formal response to Swann was still being formulated by his officials. He said he would also be speaking with his northern counterpart next week about the issue.

“It’s a conversation we’ll have at government and obviously I’ll discuss it directly with Minister Swann,” he said.

“My own view right now is that the epidemiological situation wouldn’t warrant that, we are opening up to inter-county travel, we are not changing that tomorrow certainly.”

In last Wednesday’s letter to Donnelly, seen by the PA news agency, Swann warned of a “fresh increase of community transmission of Covid-19”.

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He said that both jurisdictions should do everything possible to prevent non-essential cross-border travel.

embedded259458176 Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann. Source: Niall Carson/PA

The letter said: “I wish to place on record my concern at the potential for cross-border interactions to fuel a fresh increase in community transmission and Covid-19 cases in respective jurisdictions.

Our two jurisdictions are at different junctures, in terms of number of cases, the current trajectory of the epidemic, vaccination progress and Covid-19 restrictions.

“However, that should not hamper continued co-operation in key areas.

“In particular, I believe we should be doing all we can to prevent non-essential cross-border travel at this time.

“This will require clear messaging, backed up by enforcement if required.”

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