Travel – people moving freely across the porous border and travellers arriving at ports and airports – has been a contentious issue since the pandemic began.

The very first case of the virus on the island of Ireland involved a person who came to Dublin Airport and then crossed into Northern Ireland.

As the Covid-19 challenge intensifies and the administrations in Dublin and Stormont admit really difficult days are ahead, there are some indications of policy shifts that might address some of the travel problems.

In the south, the tactic of imposing a 5km travel limit has been used a number of times. If the incidence of the disease continues to increase, increasing the limit to 2km is an option.

In Northern Ireland, the Stormont Executive has been reluctant to adopt such regulations.

At different times in recent months, garda checkpoints were deployed to support travel restrictions policies. In Northern Ireland, there has been no corresponding visible policy involving the PSNI.

As a result of this evening's Executive meeting, a nuanced but important change is planned. At present the advice to "stay at home" is guidance. It is now to become a regulation.

The PSNI will have the authority to ask travellers to provide a reasonable excuse for their movement and if it is not offered, the police will have the right to advise a return to home.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister, DUP leader, Arlene Foster, yesterday drew attention to reports of large crowds congregating at the seaside resorts of Portstewart and Portrush.

She raised her concerns with the PSNI.

Justice Minister and Alliance Party leader, Naomi Long, is another who favours the PSNI having a more public role in discouraging movement and activity during a time of lockdown.

The border, separating two jurisdictions, is an additional complication. Thousands of workers crossed the porous frontier each day for work purposes.

The police are sometimes reluctant to intervene with travellers from the neighbouring jurisdiction. But there is increasing support in Stormont and Dublin for better coordination on the travel question.

The two administrations may also be shaping up to have a conversation about the challenge posed by travellers arriving at the island’s ports and airports.

Immediately before Christmas, after the confirmation that a new strain of the virus was affecting the spread in England, the authorities in Dublin halted the arrival of flights from Great Britain.

That measure is due for discussion by the Cabinet in Dublin this week.

One option may involve requiring all travellers to be tested for the virus and have the documentation to verify a negative result before they embark on a journey to the Republic of Ireland.

This would apply to all those travelling, including Irish and British passport holders.

It would remove the possibility of an individual being able to bypass the regulations on the basis that they were passing through, on the way to Northern Ireland.

Earlier this week, British government minister, Michael Gove, had a conversation with leaders of the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The possibility of the Westminster government imposing restrictions or even a temporary ban on the arrival of travellers from abroad was raised.

It was pointed out to Mr Gove that such powers rest with London, not the devolved partners. He was also told that many travellers coming to Northern Ireland arrive via Dublin Airport.

Conversations between Dublin and the Stormont leaders on these issues could take place later this week.

It is also likely that discussions make take place between Dublin and London if policy tweaks are being considered.