Health Minister Robin Swann has asked his cross-border counterpart to consider new data sharing laws and agreements to help track international travelers arriving on the island.
r Swann wrote to Stephen Donnelly and expressed concern about the “inability” of both jurisdictions to record and share information about passengers traveling from one part of the island to another.
In the letter, Mr Swann told Mr Donnelly that his officials experienced “serious obstacles” in the surveillance of travelers crossing the border after landing in the Irish Republic from a high-risk country.
Such passengers must isolate themselves in Northern Ireland for 14 days.
Mr Swann said the system depended on people completing a passenger finder form within 48 hours of entering Ireland. He said if they hadn’t filled out those forms, the authorities here had no way to track them down.
“The logical solution is to ensure that all international travelers who land on the island of Ireland provide data that is accessible for compliance checks in our respective jurisdictions,” said Mr. Swann.
“I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you to find a quick solution, including the introduction of new legislation and data sharing agreements if necessary.
“I think this would be an important achievement that would demonstrate our commitment to working together to effectively address common challenges.”
On Thursday, the Executive agreed to write to the British and Irish governments requesting to convene a meeting of the British Irish Council to discuss travel issues presented by Covid-19. The council is made up of the two governments and representatives of all devolved regions in the UK.
There are significant policy differences on both sides of the border. The Republic of Ireland’s green list of countries considered safe for travel extends to just 15 countries, while a similar list issued by Stormont includes nearly 60 destinations.
The Irish Ministry of Health said it is considering further strengthening North / South cooperation with foreign travelers, including by adding information sharing.
“Minister Donnelly and Minister Swann and their public health experts and officials are in constant close contact on a wide range of Covid-related issues,” said a spokesperson.
“Contact tracking continues across the island and the information is shared across North and South, as it was from the beginning of this public health emergency.”