THE NORTHERN Ireland Executive have declined to introduce a ban on travel from Britain to help prevent the spread of a new strain of Coronavirus.
The Assembly had last night called an emergency meeting to discuss Christmas plans in the region amid a sharp rise in cases, and the new mutation of Covid-19 identified in England which is allegedly 70% more transmissible.
France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland are among the countries who have closed their borders to flights, ferries and trains from the United Kingdom-- and Scotland has banned entry to travellers from England-- and it was expected that the North may follow suit.
However, while the Executive agreed on restricting three-household gatherings to just Christmas Day rather than spread over 5 days as planned, they could not reach an agreement on banning travel from Britain.
Instead, in a statement released this morning, a spokesperson claims this is because people in Tier 4-- such as London and parts of the South East-- are told not to travel and "everyone should comply" with this.
"The Executive is urging everyone to travel only if it is absolutely necessary," the statement reads.
"Travel is not permitted in or out of Tier 4 areas in England. Restrictions apply in other tier areas. Everyone should comply with all travel restrictions in place for each region and check the guidance at both the point of departure and destination."
The decision not to follow the Republic and ban travel from the UK has drawn fears that people will simply fly to Belfast and make their way to the Republic from there, risking spreading the new strain of Covid-19 announced by Boris Johnson earlier this week.
On Saturday, travellers from London packed into train stations in an attempt to get home before Tier 4 lockdown restrictions came into place.
And yesterday, hundreds of Irish in London became trapped in Heathrow as it appeared that an 8.30pm flight to Dublin-- one of the last before the midnight travel ban came into effect-- had been oversold by hundreds of people, The Irish Times reports.
The Republic's ban on travel from the UK is for an initial 48 hours, but is likely to be extended once the Cabinet meets on Tuesday.
The Northern Ireland Executive confirmed they will discuss travel again at a later date if action becomes necessary.