Thu. Dec 1st, 2022


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Northern Ireland limits Christmas bubbles to one day amid new Covid strain

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The Northern Ireland Executive has also slashed the five-day Christmas bubble plan to just one day amid a new 'out of control' strain of coronavirus.

Three households were initially allowed to meet for five days, and now the rule has been changed to gathering on just Christmas Day.

For those working on December 25 they have been allowed to meet their bubble on another day during the festive period.

It comes as the five-day Christmas bubble period has been reduced to just Christmas Day in Wales, England and Scotland.

The decision was made by Stormont ministers during an emergency virtual executive meeting late on Sunday night, reports The Mirror.

Ministers reportedly opted against a temporary ban on travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in response to the new variant of Covid-19 that has taken hold in other parts of the UK.

It is understood Executive ministers debated amending the 1967 Public Health Act to introduce short-term travel restrictions, with four of the main parties for the ban, but not the DUP, according to reports.

Sinn Fein supported the move however practical issues were raised around how quickly such a ban could be introduced, given the time it would likely take for the Department of Health to draw up regulations to bring it into effect.

The DUP position was that UK internal travel is already banned from Tier 4 areas in England, so there is no need for added Stormont legislation to enforce that.

  • Desperate Brits stranded at Heathrow Airport amid coronavirus travel ban

The party believes the responsibility for stopping flights and ferries within the UK is an issue for the UK Government and has also raised concern that Stormont could leave itself open to compensation liabilities if it was to legislate on the issue.

It is understood the Health Department is to seek further legal advice on the issue ahead of the executive resuming discussions on Monday.

In a letter, Minister for Justice Naomi Long, Minister for Finance Conor Murphy and Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon raised concerns about the more infectious coronavirus variant found in England.

"The speed and scale of the virus transmission spread and the fact that it is so fast-moving is a cause for alarm to us all," the parties said.

  • Brits in Tier 2 hit the town to eat and drink as Boris brings in Tier 4 down south

Minister for Education Peter Weir is set to face questions about schools reopening when the Assembly is recalled on Monday.

Mr Weir confirmed on Friday that all schools and education settings would reopen in the first week of January, however he is facing mounting calls to review the decision.

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, who is chair of the education committee, called for the Assembly to sit this week.

He tweeted on Sunday: "It is my understanding that the Education Minister has accepted the need to give a statement on the safety of and contingency for school restart, transfer tests and examinations in January at the Assembly tomorrow. Speaker confirmation pending."

  • Brits face months in Tier 4 'until Covid vaccine fully rolled out', warns Matt Hancock

Prime Minister Boris Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for millions of people across London and south-east England after scientists said a new coronavirus variant is spreading more rapidly.

NI's deputy first minister Michelle O'Neill said on Saturday: "Christmas bubbling arrangements are in place for those who feel they need to come together.

"If you must avail of them, then please consider doing so for one day only, Christmas Day.

"Keep your bubble as small as possible and meet for the shortest amount of time you can.

"We are clearly very worried about the Covid-19 situation that is unfolding. The speed at which this variant strain of the virus is spreading is deeply concerning."

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