England-only quarantine easing will cost hundreds of jobs in NI: Airport boss

Belfast International Airport during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Stephen Davison/PacemakerBelfast International Airport during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Stephen Davison/Pacemaker
Belfast International Airport during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Stephen Davison/Pacemaker
The easing of quarantine restrictions in England but not Northern Ireland leaves hundreds of jobs at risk and must be addressed, the managing director of Belfast International Airport has said.

Graham Keddie was commenting after the UK government announced that anyone arriving in England from most European countries, several island nations and many farther east including Japan and South Korea, would no longer have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Australia and New Zealand are also on the list of exempt countries in what is known as the air bridge arrangement.

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Mr Keddie has said the lack of a similar scheme applicable to Northern Ireland must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“The decision by the UK government to omit Northern Ireland and other UK regions from its air bridges announcement was deeply disappointing and frustrating,” Mr Keddie said.

“Unfortunately this has been further compounded by the silence from the NI Executive. The simple truth is that Northern Ireland’s omission leaves hundreds of jobs at risk at a time when the travel and tourism industry needs to see leadership and support from government.

“This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency in order to save jobs and save our connectivity.”

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The existing open borders allowed for in the common travel area – involving the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands – remains unaffected.

Announcing the change in arrangements applicable to England in the Commons on Monday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “It is vitally important that we manage the risk of a second wave of coronavirus and keep the number of cases of Covid-19 in the UK as low as possible.

“The government will keep the requirements and exemptions set out in the regulations under review. The next review of the regulations will be by July 27, 2020.”

Mr Shapps added: “I hope this announcement provides good news to the many of us who want to enjoy a holiday abroad this year, visit family and friends overseas or travel to do business and will help protect jobs in the international transport and tourism sectors.

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“The government continues to work closely with international partners around the world to discuss arrangements for travellers arriving from the UK and will continue this engagement ahead of the changes coming into force.”

A NI Department of Health spokesperson said: “The Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 came into operation on June 8. Amendments to the regulations are currently being considered and will be for the Executive to agree. The health minister expects a decision to be made in the coming days.”

The Scottish and Welsh governments are also understood to be reviewing their own quarantine regulations.


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