Foster warns cross-border travellers not to ‘game’ coronavirus rules

Northern Ireland’s First Minister has warned people not to game the coronavirus regulations as she urged against non-essential cross-border trips.

Arlene Foster told anyone contemplating a trip from the region to a holiday home or caravan in Co Donegal to stay at home.

Her comments come after the island’s two chief medical officers called on people to limit cross-border travel in response to soaring infection rates in Co Donegal and in the Derry City and Strabane Council area.

Co Donegal has been placed under a three-week period of tightened restrictions by the Irish Government while across the border the area around Derry is recording the highest Covid-19 infection figures of anywhere in Northern Ireland.

What we're trying to do at the moment is to break the transmission of the virus and the way to do that is to follow the regulations and to follow the advice

Mrs Foster, whose own Fermanagh constituency is adjacent to Donegal, said she had a “very good conversation” about the situation with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

“Obviously, because of the fact that Donegal runs right down the west of the province in relation to the border, there’s a need to have practical co-operation and we discussed that last night,” she said in Enniskillen.

“And as you know, the two chief medical officers have released a statement as to how it should be managed, that people shouldn’t be going between the two different jurisdictions, unless there’s an exempted reason for doing so.”

In a message to anyone considering a cross-border leisure trip at the weekend, she added: “I would advise them not to go because I don’t think that that is essential travel, and it’s certainly not an exempted part.

“And people shouldn’t try to game the regulations, people should use their common sense.

“What we’re trying to do at the moment is to break the transmission of the virus and the way to do that is to follow the regulations and to follow the advice and I think people should listen very carefully to the advice that’s been given to citizens in Donegal but also to what we’re saying here in Northern Ireland.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Michelle O’Neill said Covid-19 was increasing at an alarming rate (David Young/PA)</figcaption>
Michelle O’Neill said Covid-19 was increasing at an alarming rate (David Young/PA)

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill noted the “alarming” speed at which case numbers had risen in Donegal.

“I think it shows that the virus is still with us,” she said.

“It shows that the virus spreads at an alarming rate. It shows how quickly people’s fortunes can turn around. What we need now is a very strong response to that and I welcome the fact that, you know, measures have been put in place immediately.

“I’ve spoken with the chief medical officer who has spoken to his counterpart Ronan Glynn, they very much recognised that we need to move now in lockstep, we need to be very joined up on our messaging, we need to fight this virus as a whole island approach.

“I think that the fact that we live on an island is an advantage to us and we need to work very hard to make sure that we are moving in tandem in fighting back against Covid-19.”