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The government is pumping £17m of funding into protecting five key freight routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another £10.5m will support links with The Isle of Wight and The Scilly Isles.

The freight support package also covers 26 routes between Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden, including Eurotunnel.

The package of measures also includes the creation of a Transport Support Unit (TSU) to assist frontline responders during the COVID-19 crisis.

The unit, made up of thousands of volunteers, vehicles, aircraft and ships, also includes Network Rail’s entire 850-strong fleet of vans and trucks and its seven regional distribution centres which will also be used to store and distribute COVID-19 related supplies.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Essential supplies are continuing to flow well, but operators are facing challenges as fewer people travelling means less capacity to move goods.

He added that the funding package will help ensure “all parts of the UK have the capacity they need".

“Now more than ever we need to work closely together, and the new Transport Support Unit stands ready to help our frontline staff and deliver crucial supplies.”

The NI minister for infrastructure, Nichola Mallon, said: “Keeping our critical routes open across these islands for the supply of foods, goods and medicines is absolutely critical in our fight against COVID-19. This support package will protect our ferry operators and ensure that vital supply chains are maintained.”