1. ITV Report

Six more coronavirus-related deaths in Northern Ireland

Belfast city centre as new the regulations come into effect. Credit: Pacemaker

Six more people with coronavirus have died in Northern Ireland.

The Public Health Agency said it brings the total number of Covid-19-related deaths to 21.

Meanwhile the number of confirmed cases here has risen to 410.

Across the whole UK, the number of deaths has risen to 1,228 as of 5pm on Saturday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has written to every household in the UK warning "things will get worse before they get better".

In the Republic of Ireland, the number of deaths rose by 10 to 46.

It comes as new regulations aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus come into effect in Northern Ireland.

Under the new powers, gatherings of more than two people have been banned and fines of up to £5,000 can be handed to those failing to follow the rules.

The powers also compel the closure of certain premises and prohibit anyone from leaving home without a reasonable excuse.

They were agreed by the Stormont Executive and came into force at 11pm on Saturday.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne says members of the public will notice "a change of police style and approach at tourist locations and local open areas to encourage people to adhere to the regulations".

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “These are extraordinary powers for any Government to have to introduce, but we are living in extraordinary times.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “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.”

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The new regulations also include a list of which type of business premises should close and which can continue operating as an essential service.

Those workplaces that remain open must comply with strict rules on social distancing.

The Executive said manufacturing and most of the service sector would not be affected by the closure orders.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne outlined a four-phase approach which the PSNI will be taking in relation to dispersal.

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Mr Byrne says officers will apply their discretion and will ask questions to establish individual circumstances.

He says they will instruct people to return home if they do not have a reasonable excuse to be out of their house.

“The new powers mean that if a person commits an offence of failing to comply with any such direction or restriction imposed on them without reasonable excuse, officers will consider an appropriate disposal," he said.

"That may initially be advice and guidance or a Community Resolution Notice.

“However, if required police will enforce this legislation and issue a penalty notice of £60.

Each and every one of us has a personal responsibility to follow the NI Executive regulations and do everything we can to stop the spread of Covid-19.

– Chief Constable Simon Byrne

"The issuance of a PND in the first instance is not in itself a criminal offence – the Police do not want to criminalise people, we simply want to ensure that people follow the regulations.

“For those who continue to disregard the NI Executive directions, the fine can be doubled each time and summary prosecution can be sought for those who refuse to pay or comply.

"The £60 fine can fall to £30 if paid within 14 days. If a person has already received a fixed penalty notice, the amount will increase to £120 and double on each further repeat offence."

A clampdown on movement is also in force in the Republic of Ireland where 36 deaths have been linked to coronavirus.

The Northern Ireland Executive has also agreed:

  • Anyone who can work from home must work from home
  • Employers must facilitate working from home where it is feasible
  • No employer should compel an employee to come to work if it is feasible to work from home
  • Every employer must take all reasonable steps to safeguard the health, safety and well-being of employees during the Covid-19 emergency, whether working from home or in the workplace
  • Every employer must have particular regard to the safety of employees in the workplace and must put into effect the guidance on social distancing issued by the Department for the Economy
  • Every employer has a legal duty to ensure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees
  • Where a business is failing to observe the Department for the Economy guidance and breaching the legal duty on health and safety, the statutory authorities will take robust action, which may include prosecution for criminal offences;
  • Where necessary, the Executive will use its power of direction to close or restrict businesses that do not ensure the safety of their employees.

The regulations flow from the emergency laws passed at Westminster earlier in the week.

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.”