1. ITV Report

Free public transport for health workers in coronavirus response

Free public transport has been made available for health care workers in Northern Ireland as part of the response to Covid-19.

From Friday until the end of June, Health and Social Care Trust workers can show their work pass to travel for free, or private sector workers can show photographic ID and a letter signed by their employer. The letter will be made available from the Department of Health.

This is a small gesture to those staff who are working so hard to protect us all during these unprecedented times.

– Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “Recognising the tireless and vital work of all health and social care workers in response to Covid-19, and in consultation with the Health Minister Robin Swann, I have taken the decision to make public transport free for all these workers during the outbreak.

“These are individuals, who are working day after day, are putting themselves in the frontline to save lives and look after some of the most vulnerable members of our community. They do this for each and every one of us and it is only right that we do what we can, no matter how small, to support them.

“I would urge the public to support this by continuing to follow the advice, not to travel unless absolutely essential. We all need to stay at home and support those who are exposing themselves to risk everyday on our behalf."

This week services were reduced in an effort to discourage people from non-essential travel. From Monday 30 March the level of public transport provision will be reduced further with new timetables available on Translink’s website and journey planner.

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Minister Mallon said: “The timetable changes will ensure continued public transport coverage across Northern Ireland, so that our essential workers can continue to travel at peak times. Translink will also have additional capacity on standby for heavier used services to facilitate and accommodate social distancing.

“I want to be clear to all passengers, no service will allow more than 50% of passengers on board. That is the only way we can ensure social distancing. You must not sit beside other passengers. The advice must be followed to allow two metres of distance between yourself and all other individuals."

These revised timetables will ensure we maintain geographic coverage while providing essential services for key workers, those caring for others and access to healthcare and food supplies.

– Chris Conway, Group Chief Executive of Translink

Chris Conway, Group Chief Executive said: “We are pleased to support our key health workers who are doing an incredible job during these most difficult times. This is a dynamic situation we are all in together and we are committed to providing essential public transport services for key workers and those needing access to key services such as healthcare and food supplies.

“I would also like to commend our own staff who are working hard to ensure we continue to deliver vital bus and train services for our community. Working together we can all help protect the NHS and maintain safe and reliable transport for key workers and those needing access to key services, most importantly we will save lives.”

This will be of immense assistance in maximising our available workforce in the fight against coronavirus. It recognises the value of our health and social care workers, and the need to prioritise their travel to and from work at this very challenging time.

– Health Minister Robin Swann

Paying tribute to Translink staff, Minister Mallon continued: “It is as a result of their efforts and selflessness that our public transport services continue to run to allow our key workers to access their workplace and services. I urge the public to support them and our health service workers by continuing to follow guidance on social distancing and only leaving home for essential purposes.”