Taoiseach: Talks ongoing on 'two-island' solution to mandatory quarantining

Micheál Martin also warned that given the high level of community transmission, 'I don’t think one can envisage any significant relaxation of restrictions at this particular point in time'
Taoiseach: Talks ongoing on 'two-island' solution to mandatory quarantining

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the 'two-island' solution was workable and discussions had been held between Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and his UK counterpart, Matt Hancock.

Talks are ongoing on a "two-island solution" to mandatory quarantining between Ireland and the UK, the Taoiseach has confirmed.

Speaking on Friday evening, Micheál Martin said the solution was workable and that discussions had been held between Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and his UK counterpart, Matt Hancock. However, Mr Martin said the Northern Executive's resistance to the idea that those who fly from Britain to the North quarantine in a hotel for two weeks could be an issue. He said the talks were "embryonic".

He added the border would not be closed.

"I know the Minister for Health has been talking to Minister Hancock about that; I know the two transport ministers have been talking about it. I’ve spoken to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill about this last week, we had a meeting.

The Northern Executive would have a different perspective on flights from Britain into Northern Ireland, and that is problematic. That creates an obvious issue. 

"We’re not in a position to seal the entire border; there’s never been a policy position to seal the entire island either. So therefore the two-island context is one that could be pursued."

The Taoiseach also all but confirmed that restrictions would remain in place after Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.

There is no talk at the moment in terms of any relaxation or reversing of restrictions at the end of this month. We are looking at a continuation of restrictions into February. 

"I think you can take it that we’ll take stock every four weeks of the situation. But the full range of restrictions will be looked at on Monday, and will be examined by the Cabinet subcommittee, and a final decision will be taken then. 

"But given the high level of community transmission out there still – and it is very high out there – I don’t think one can envisage any significant relaxation of restrictions at this particular point in time."

Mr Martin said Education Minister Norma Foley was "continuing to work" with unions and her department on reopening schools on February 1, but that no decision has been made yet.

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