The UK government has unveiled a £17m package to ensure the continued supply of critical goods to Northern Ireland.
The package has been made available to freight operators so they can continue running services on five sea routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during the coronavirus pandemic.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The action will help ensure we have the freight capacity we need across the UK. This funding will help ferry operators protect our supply chain and maintain the flow of critical goods across the Irish Sea and throughout the union.”
During a daily Covid-19 press conference, Shapps said the UK had produced a “far-reaching package to safeguard the flow of essential goods” into and across the country.
“We’re also taking action to secure services around the UK including £10.5m for links to the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles allowing critical freight to continue to support families in every part of our country,” he said.
The transport secretary confirmed passenger flights from Belfast and Derry-Londonderry to Great Britain will be maintained during the pandemic to accommodate key workers.
Shapps also announced an agreement between the UK, Ireland and France to keep freight routes open throughout the crisis.
Shapps said: “I can announce the government has secured a trilateral agreement, along with the French and Irish governments, which commits our nations to keeping freight routes open ... bringing in life-saving medicines, food, many other essential goods, allowing us time to meet the needs of our countries during this difficult period.
“Operators on many of these routes have been under rising financial pressure due to falling demand. Since many of them bring in crucial goods like medicines, raw material and chemicals to purify water, it is important to guarantee the continuation of these services.”
Further funding will also be made available to support more routes across the UK, subject to discussions with operators, the government said.
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