Omicron Northern Ireland: Health Minister warns variant cases 'inevitable' as travel rules announced

Robin Swann updates the Assembly on new measures being introduced to contain the new variant's spread. Credit: UTV

Fully vaccinated travellers arriving into Northern Ireland from non Red-list countries will once again have to self isolate for 10 days, until able to provide a negative test result, the Health Minister has announced.

Travel measures are being tightened in a bid to contain the spread of the new Covid variant.

No cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in Northern Ireland yet.

However Robin Swann warned it is “highly likely” that this position will change in the coming days.

“The evidence that the Omicron variant has potentially significant mutations which may change the behaviour of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility, means that there is a need to reinstate some of the previous requirements until there is a better understanding of the risks,” the minister told the Northern Ireland Assembly today.

He said that all arrivals into Northern Ireland from non-Red list countries, including those who are fully vaccinated, will now be required to self-isolate for 10 days unless they receive a negative test result, with a PCR test to be undertaken on or before Day two. 

It is planned that these changes will take effect in the International Travel Regulations early this week, although the advice is that travellers should follow these new arrangements immediately.

Mr Swann said while it is inevitable that there will be more cases identified it is important to not only reduce the number of cases being imported, but also to limit and slow the spread of this variant

“In response, contacts of new variant cases will be required to self-isolate for 10 days even if they are fully vaccinated,” he added.

The measures will be reviewed in three weeks when more evidence about the new variant is available.