Northern Ireland news

Boris Johnson orders lockdown with police fines to tackle coronavirus

British prime minister Boris Johnson speaking last night
Seanín Graham

BORIS Johnson has ordered a lockdown to tackle the coronavirus, with the threat of police fines and a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.

The British prime minister announced the draconian new rules in a televised address last night from within Downing Street.

People must stay at home except when:

  • Shopping for essentials.
  • Doing daily exercise.
  • Attending to medical needs or helping vulnerable people.
  • Travelling to and from essential work.

Shops selling non-essential goods are being told to shut and gatherings in public of more than two people who do not live together are to be prohibited.

Other premises being shuttered are libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship.

Lockdown: Boris Johnson’s address to the nation in full

While parks will remain open for exercise, all social events including weddings and baptisms will be stopped. Funerals, however, can continue.

The measures will be in place for at least three weeks.

"If you don't follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings," Mr Johnson said.

It came as three more people in Ireland died who had tested postive for Covid-19.

Arlene Foster: Follow Boris Johnson’s lockdown orders to save lives

A patient aged in their late sixties, who had underlying health conditions, died in a hospital in the greater Belfast area.

Two patients also died in the Republic. Both were male and in the east of the country.

It brings to nine the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Ireland – six in the south and three in the north.

There were another 20 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the north yesterday, bringing the total to 148.

PSNI officers on patrol in Belfast city centre. Picture by Mal McCann.

The UK death toll has reached more than 300.

Earlier, First Minister Arlene Foster warned of "a wave of deaths" if people continued to flout social distancing guidelines.

"This really is a matter of life or death," Mrs Foster said.

"If people don't follow the guidelines the coronavirus will spread, it will surge and result in a wave of deaths as our hospitals come under intense pressure to deal with the amount of cases coming through their doors."

In a joint briefing with Mrs Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill urged the public to understand that "this is not a holiday, this is an emergency".

Earlier, Ms O'Neill broke down in tears over the plight of a cancer patient as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The Mater Hospital's A&E in Belfast will close its doors today after being designated as the north's Covid-19 hospital.

Doctors and nurses across the Belfast trust will be redeployed to the Mater to support the "anticipated higher level of activity" – with a surge in cases expected within the next two to three weeks.

Meanwhile, a high-profile Northern Ireland PR executive has revealed his experience of contracting the deadly virus.

Writing in today's Irish News Business Insight, Paul McErlean, a former captain of Antrim senior football team, revealed he was treated for the virus in London after returning from a skiing trip to Austria.


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