Omicron fears mean tighter rules for foreign arrivals to NI

Anyone arriving in Northern Ireland from abroad will be required to undergo a pre-departure Covid test from tomorrow, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The changes to international travel for Northern Ireland mirror a similar announcement made on Saturday for England.

The new rules have been announced amid growing concerns over the spread of the Omicron Covid variant.

No cases of Omicron have yet been identified in Northern Ireland, but Health Minister Robin Swann has previously said it is expected that the new strain is already in the Province.

A chart showing the rate of Covid infections across the UK

Under the new rules, from 4am tomorrow anyone arriving into Northern Ireland from abroad will be required to take a pre-departure Covid test.

This applies to all travellers aged 12 years old and over, including those who are fully vaccinated.

The Department of Health said it is a temporary measure and will be reviewed prior to December 20.

International travellers will have to provide a negative pre-departure PCR or LFD test taken 48 hours before travelling, in addition to a negative PCR test on or before day two after arrival.

Nigeria has also been added to the red list for international travel from 4am today, meaning all travellers returning to Northern Ireland from there will be required to enter hotel quarantine upon arrival and isolate for 10 days.

Travellers that have arrived from Nigeria in the last 10 days are required to self-isolate, along with other members of the household, and take a PCR test on days two and eight.

These will be provided by NHS Test and Trace.

Other countries currently on Northern Ireland’s red list are Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namiba, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, on Saturday a further nine deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 were reported in Northern Ireland.

Another 1,642 cases of the virus were also notified.

Then yesterday the number of new deaths was seven, with another 1,422 cases of the virus.

There have been four notable spikes in coronavirus deaths in NI since the pandemic started.

The first was in mid-April 2020, before deaths dropped off to nothing in the following months.

There was a renewed surge in January 2021 – by far the biggest of the spikes.

And more recently there have been two little spikes.

The first in early September, when deaths were hitting 13 per day before dropping off, and the second was in late October and early November, when deaths hit 12 per day before dropping down again as the Province entered December.