Northern Ireland introduces new social distancing restrictions with fines of up to £5,000 for anyone breaching laws to prevent spread of coronavirus as death toll hits 15
- Coronavirus cases in Northern Ireland hit 324 after a rise of 49 diagnoses today
- Anyone not following the regulations could be fined up to £5,000 by authorities
- The new regulations will exclude manufacturing and most of the service sector
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Northern Ireland has been put under lockdown with fines of up to £5,000 for anyone breaking the laws to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The measures come as two further victims of the killer bug brought the death toll up to 15 in the region.
The total number of cases hit 324 after 49 new diagnoses were confirmed today.
No-one is allowed to leave the house without a reasonable excuse and gatherings of more than two have been banned.
Northern Ireland has been put under lockdown with fines of up to £5,000 for anyone breaking the laws to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Pictured: First Minister Arlene Foster yesterday
Anyone not following the regulations – which follow those issued by Westminster earlier in the week – could be fined up to £5,000.
The regulations will come into force from 11pm on Saturday and include a list of businesses that should close and which can stay open.
Manufacturing and most of the service sector would not need to close, the Stormont Executive stated.
Those workplaces that remain open must comply with strict social distancing rules.
A police officer wearing a hazmat suit is seen on the street in Belfast as the spread of coronavirus continues
Anyone not following the regulations – which follow those issued by Westminster earlier in the week – could be fined up to £5,000. Pictured: Police in Hazmat suits in Belfast today
Authorities have the power to close certain premises and prohibit anyone from leaving home without a reasonable excuse.
The executive faced some criticism for the length of time it has taken to translate the Westminster laws into legally enforceable powers in Northern Ireland.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: ‘These are extraordinary powers for any Government to have to introduce, but we are living in extraordinary times.
‘We are asking the people of Northern Ireland to make fundamental changes to how they live their lives. But we are doing this to keep you safe, to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 infection so that the health service has the capacity to deal with those who need their help the most.
The total number of cases in Northern Ireland hit 324 after 49 new diagnoses were confirmed today. Pictured: A shopper buying toilet roll in Belfast on Thursday
‘We know the enormity of what we are asking of the public, but it is proportionate to the threat we all face from this deadly virus. No-one is immune.’
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: ‘Protecting the public, supporting the health service and saving lives are the priorities for the executive during this crisis.
‘Each one of us has a personal responsibility to do everything we can to fight back against Covid-19 for the good of everyone across society. That’s why we are asking everyone to comply with the new measures being introduced today.
‘As an executive, we don’t want to get to the stage where people are being fined for being out when they should be at home.
Authorities have the power to close certain premises and prohibit anyone from leaving home without a reasonable excuse. Pictured: Stores were already starting to shut in Belfast on Thursday
‘But if anyone – even after everything they have heard or seen over the last few weeks – still believes that this does not apply to them, then we will use every power we have to ensure people stay at home so that we save as many lives as we possibly can.’
Health Minister Robin Swann said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic is affecting every one of us, and every aspect of public life. We think particularly of those who have lost loved ones to this virus.
‘These emergency regulations are an essential component of the strategy to tackle the pandemic and will ensure a consistent approach across the four regions of the UK.
‘The extreme disruption to normal life would have been unthinkable just a few short weeks ago. It is a price we all have to pay, to protect each other and the health service.
‘Everyone has to take personal responsibility for their actions and to stick rigidly to these restrictions for as long as they are needed. It is a matter of life and death.’