NHS workers are to be given free travel on public transport in Northern Ireland from tomorrow (Friday), while the fight against Covid-19 continues.
Health and Social Care Trust workers will simply show their work pass to Translink staff.
For others operating in the private sector such as care homes, they will avail of free travel by showing photographic ID and a letter signed by their employer.
This letter will be made available from the Department of Health.
The free transport will remain in place at this stage until the end of June.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has also approved a further reduction in the level of public transport provision as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
From Monday, March 30, Translink bus and rail services will operate a further reduced frequency timetable.
Said Minister Mallon: “These measures are being implemented following the new NI Executive advice issued during the week to stay at home. I would reiterate the advice that we all must avoid non-essential travel and continue to practise social distancing in the fight against Covid-19. It is advice we must all follow.
“The timetable changes will ensure continued public transport coverage across Northern Ireland, so that our essential workers can continue to travel at peak times.
“Translink will also have additional capacity on standby for heavier used services to facilitate and accommodate social distancing.
“I want to be clear to all passengers, no service will allow more than 50% of passengers on board. That is the only way we can ensure social distancing. You must not sit beside other passengers.
“The advice must be followed to allow two metres of distance between yourself and all other individuals.
“Recognising the tireless and vital work of all health and social care workers in response to Covid-19, and in consultation with the Health Minister Robin Swann, I have taken the decision to make public transport free for all these workers during the outbreak.
“These are individuals, who are working day after day, are putting themselves in the frontline to save lives and look after some of the most vulnerable members of our community. They do this for each and every one of us and it is only right that we do what we can, no matter how small, to support them.
“This is a small gesture to those staff who are working so hard to protect us all during these unprecedented times. I would urge the public to support this by continuing to follow the advice, not to travel unless absolutely essential. We all need to stay at home and support those who are exposing themselves to risk everyday on our behalf.”
Welcoming free transport for health sector workers, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I am very grateful to the Department for Infrastructure and to Translink for this very helpful offer. It recognises the value of our health and social care workers, and the need to prioritise their travel to and from work at this very challenging time.
“This will be of immense assistance in maximising our available workforce in the fight against Coronavirus. It also demonstrates the cooperation between Executive Ministers and Departments, which will continue to be of crucial importance.”
Paying tribute to Translink staff, Minister Mallon continued: “I want to also recognise the commitment of Translink and all its staff who have been working hard in challenging conditions to keep our essential services running and to support our health service in responding to Covid-19.
” It is as a result of their efforts and selflessness that our public transport services continue to run to allow our key workers to access their workplace and services. I urge the public to support them and our health service workers by continuing to follow guidance on social distancing and only leaving home for essential purposes.
“I want give reassurance that keeping communities across the North safe at this very concerning time is my priority. My Department is doing everything it can to ensure essential services and connections are maintained for those using and reliant on our infrastructure network.
“I will be keeping the public transport situation under constant review in line with NI Executive advice on public health.”