By James Ward and Cate McCurry, PA
Northern Ireland leaders have said they will consult with medical advisers over plans to reopen society in light of the slower vaccine rollout in the Republic.
The vaccination programme in Northern Ireland passed 800,000 doses this week, around 45 per cent of the population.
That compares with around 13.2 per cent who have been vaccinated in the Republic, where the rollout has been slower and the population is much larger.
This has led to concerns over travel between the two jurisdictions if Northern Ireland begins to lift restrictions before a majority of people in the Republic have been inoculated.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Well this is something we will take advice from our medical advisers on.
“He has been very clear in the past that if people without the vaccine come into contact with people who have the vaccine and they have Covid-19, then it can actually damage the efficacy of the vaccine.
“So we need to be very clear as to what happens when most of our population is vaccinated, if it is still the case that the Republic of Ireland is further behind.
“We will of course be looking at these issues as they come before us.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Clearly, the 26 counties are further behind in terms of the vaccine but it’s not a competition. We need to support each other.
“We need to work together, and we need to share our vaccines where we can, and we need to just continually work together to fight this pandemic across these islands.
“I think the more co-operation we can have, the more successful we’ll be and the quicker we’ll get to the other side of it.”