AS it emerges that lockdown will likely continue for another three weeks in Northern Ireland and ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd is calling on the public in Antrim to act responsibly, only travel when necessary and continue to abide by the Northern Ireland Executive regulations to help stop the spread of Covid19.
The Northern Ireland Executive has also recommended that people consider wearing some sort of face covering in certain circumstances.
ACC Todd said: “The guidance from our Health Minister and the Northern Ireland Executive, alongside the regulations, are clear; people should only leave home when they have a clear and essential reason for doing so.
“Since the beginning of the restrictions we have been aware of a slow but steady increase in the number of vehicles on our roads. While some of this can be explained by increased commercial activity and the travel of essential workers there is clearly a number of people who are not adhering to the regulations.
“We will be conducting patrols and checks over the weekend right across Northern Ireland and we will also be coordinating activity with our colleagues in An Garda Siochana.
“Our preference is always for members of our communities to comply with the restrictions in place and throughout our activity over the weekend we will continue to engage, explain and encourage people to play their part to protect themselves and others. Enforcement will always be a last resort.”
The Justice Minister Naomi Long also stressed the need to avoid complacency in the fight to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Naomi Long said: “We are heading towards a bank holiday weekend in Northern Ireland and I know how tempting it can be to set off on a day trip or perhaps to a holiday home but we really do need people to continue to stay at home.
“The vast majority of people are doing that - and they are saving lives. Now is not the time for complacency if we are to win the battle against what is an invisible and particularly vicious enemy.
“The message is simple - please stay at home unless your journey is essential.”
Meanwhile Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, has approved adjustments to public transport services to ensure the continued safety of passengers and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Minister’s announcement came as the Executive recommended that the public should consider the use of face coverings for short periods in enclosed spaces, where social distancing is not possible.
Welcoming the Executive’s announcement Minister Mallon said: “The recommendation that the public should consider the use of face coverings in enclosed spaces clearly applies to public transport and has been taken on the balance of evidence and in the best interests of public safety.
“It is important we recognise that and do all we can to encourage people to follow this advice.”
Recognising the evidence on the overall protection provided by face coverings is not conclusive, the Minister confirmed that face coverings will not be compulsory and passengers will not be turned away if they decide not to follow the advice.
Minister Mallon also cautioned that face coverings must not lead to a false sense of security and that everyone must continue to practise social distancing, including on the public transport network.
Highlighting the impact of social distancing measures on public transport the Minister said: “Facilitating social distancing on public transport limits the capacity on our network to no more than 15% on buses and 12% on trains.”
To ensure continued social distancing is facilitated across all services, the Minister also announced that, in light of recent increases in the numbers using public transport, from Monday 11 May 2020, Translink Bus and Rail Services will operate a revised timetable.