Portugal to be added to amber travel list for N Ireland holidaymakers

Portugal is to be added to the amber list for Northern Ireland holidaymakers.

The new classification, which will demand 10 days in self-isolation for travellers returning from the popular destination, is to come into effect from 4am on Tuesday.

From that date, travellers arriving in Northern Ireland either directly or indirectly from Portugal must also provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to three days before departure, book post-arrival day two and eight testing and complete a UK passenger locator form 48 hours before departure.

The move is likely to spark frustration amongst those who have booked trips to the country which had been one of very few on the green travel list.

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A spokesperson for Belfast International Airport described the decision as “incredibly disappointing for everyone affected”.

“We understand and appreciate that safety comes first but this news is another devastating blow for our industry,” they said.

“As we continue to ease lockdown measures and the vaccination programme is progressing well we remain optimistic that summer holidays to Europe will be a reality.”

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago are to be moved to the red list from the same date.

There have been no additions to the green list.

The Stormont Executive also took decisions around hospitality at its weekly meeting on the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday morning following a paper submitted by Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

Ministers agreed to end the table service requirement for unlicensed premises such as cafes, as well as for buffets.

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This decision will require new legislation to be passed, and it is understood that the departments of health and the economy will work together on that move.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “I am pleased that the Executive agreed my proposal to remove the table service requirement for unlicensed restaurants, cafés and coffee shops. These changes will come into effect for the weekend.

“The hospitality industry and the trade bodies have worked incredibly hard to put in place safety measures and mitigations to keep customers safe.

“This decision will enable those outlets that provide buffets and carveries to resume service, as well as fast food and multi-outlets where customers choose food at a counter before sitting down. This includes those in shared seating areas in shopping centres and motorway services.”

Meanwhile Stormont ministers discussed the return of live music for venues following a paper from Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.

In a video message posted to Twitter, Ms Hargey said she asked the Executive to look at the earliest date possible for a return to live music in bars, restaurants and venues.

“I have engaged with the sector and announced millions of pounds in funding to put money back in their pockets,” she said.

“I look forward to the return of live music in bars and venues as soon as possible so that we can all begin to support them once again in person.”

It is understood decisions may be made around live music at the next Thursday’s meeting of the Executive.

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First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill took part in a Covid recovery summit with government counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales.

Mrs Foster said it had been a “constructive engagement on a range of complex and interconnected issues”.

“It is clear that we have significant challenges to overcome. Our priorities must be to create a fit for purpose health and social care service, to ensure the best education for our children and to have good quality jobs. Skills are key, and it was useful to have the opportunity to press for a sector-specific retention of the furlough scheme for the aerospace industry,” she said.

“After a harrowing year, this is about making people’s lives better and I welcome the ongoing commitment to continued dialogue and discussion on how best we achieve this together.”

Ms O’Neill added: “The pandemic has challenged every administration across the world and impacted all aspects of life and society. And while no one will ever forget the pain and hardship that Covid-19 inflicted, now is the time to look forward and implement a sustainable programme of recovery. In doing so, it will be important that we work in partnership across the Executive, and with counterparts north-south and east-west to drive progress.”

Earlier, one further Covid-19 death was recorded by the Department of Health.

The death was included in the departmental statistics on Thursday but did not occur in the previous 24-hour reporting period.

There have been another 80 confirmed cases of the virus recorded.

There were 17 confirmed Covid-19 inpatients in hospital, one of whom was in intensive care, on Thursday morning.