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COVID-19 situation in Northern Ireland is severe; Tánaiste advises people not to travel to the North

DUBLIN: The government has advised people not to travel to Northern Ireland in the wake of the worsening COVID-19 situation. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told the Fine Gael parliamentary party that the Government is considering restricting travel to Northern Ireland from the end of this week. Varadkar made the remarks during a discussion on the government’s plans to ease Level 5 restrictions and return to Level 3 next week.

Mr. Varadkar said there was no final decision to what extent hospitality can be reopened and to what point people would be allowed to leave their county. The situation in Northern Ireland is very worrying. Over 2,500 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the last seven days. On Wednesday alone, there were 533 new cases, Varadkar said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin came out against this remark of the Tánaiste. A spokesman for Sinn Féin said that the Tánaiste’s suggestion was “ludicrous” and “shows just how out of touch Leo Varadkar is with the realities of real life for people living in border communities”.

“People living in border areas cross the border on a daily basis to work, study and to care for relatives and that should be allowed to continue in a safe and responsible manner,” the spokesperson added.

The Tánaiste explained that the government has a responsibility to tell the people the truth that with the easing of restrictions from next week, the virus will spread to more people. This may mean that more people are going to be hospitalised and more people are likely to die. This indicates that the current lockdown restrictions will have to be re-imposed. He said it could be extended to January and February.

Mr. Varadkar said the death toll from the first wave of COVID-19 was not the same as the second wave. With the arrival of the vaccine, the COVID Pandemic will end in 2021 and the economy will bounce back, and that people will enjoy the freedoms they took for granted.

He told TDs and senators that the people of Ireland could be vaccinated in the first quarter of next year. The vaccine is expected to be available to everyone by the second quarter.

Appointment controversy of Séamus Woulfe

Mr. Varadkar told colleagues that opposition parties were building a “mountain out of a molehill” over the Séamus Woulfe appointment controversy. More than half of the 31 people who have served as attorneys general since the end of their term have been appointed by the country as judges.

Several leaders, including Minister Patrick O’Donovan, Carlow-Kilkenny deputy John Paul Phelan, and Clare TD Joe Carey, called for the pubs to be allowed to open.

The three TDs also demanded that the churches be allowed to reopen. Mr. Varadkar said he believes there will be prayers in churches from next week. But he said he was not optimistic about reopening the pubs. Tánaiste said he would not assume that NPHET would advise the reopening of the hospitality sector.

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