Joint working ‘crucially important to delay spread of new variants’

Michael McHugh, PA
·2-min read

Joint working across these islands is “crucially important” to delay the spread of new variants of coronavirus, Northern Ireland’s health chief said.

Arriving travellers put in quarantine hotels in England will be charged £1,750 for their stay, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

Passengers face fines of up to £10,000 for failing to quarantine and those who lie on their passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in jail.

Coronavirus – Mon Jan 4, 2021
Dr Michael McBride said they needed to delay spread of new strains to buy time (Liam McBurney/PA).

Stormont’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said: “In public health terms, anything that we can do that delays the arrival of potential new variants has to be supported.

“I use the word delay because that is what it will do, it will not prevent.

“We will see these new variants.

“It buys us time to understand more about the variants.”

He said there was “mutual benefit” in stalling the arrival of new variants on these islands.

“It is crucially important that there is joint working and sharing of data and travel information.

“There is little point in closing off international travel and putting in place arrangements to prevent introduction of new variants into one part of these islands if it is not in all parts of these islands.”

Northern Ireland’s ministers have repeatedly expressed concern about lack of data sharing on travellers arriving at Dublin airport and heading north.

Ireland has strict curbs on movement of its own and the number arriving from abroad has plunged.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

Under the country’s rules, everyone will have to undergo a period of mandatory quarantine somewhere after arriving in the State.

Arrivals from South Africa and Brazil into the Republic will face mandatory hotel quarantine, alongside those who cannot produce a negative pre-flight PCR test.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann has repeatedly pressed his counterpart in the Republic of Ireland for better sharing of information about passengers, which has raised data protection concerns in Dublin.

Dr McBride said interim measures were being taken, including pointing travellers towards Northern Ireland’s requirements ahead of a permanent solution being agreed.