Robin Swann urges people 'not to lose common sense' when pubs reopen tomorrow
Health minister Robin Swann has urged people to use their common sense when pubs reopen tomorrow.
Pubs, restaurants and cafes will open their doors tomorrow for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
Mr Swann said people must continue to stick to social distancing rules, even after a few drinks.
And he warned that the coronavirus continues to pose a threat.
“I am not out to spoil anyone’s enjoyment. However, I have to remind everyone once again that the threat from Covid-19 is still very much with us," he said.
“We are all familiar with the phrase ‘when the drink’s in, the wit's out’. I hope and trust this will not be the case in Northern Ireland. Please drink and act responsibly and be sensible at all times.
“Keep sticking to the basics: keep your distance from each other and keep washing your hands. Be aware that alcohol can affect your judgement and alter your behaviour.
“Also, when we meet up with friends, a handshake or a hug is a very natural instinct. We have to fight that instinct for the sake of ourselves and others."
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said people who drink to excess this weekend will put pressure on overstretched emergency departments.
"It is estimated that alcohol misuse costs up to £900 million every year, and that almost £250 million of these costs are borne by the Health and Social Care sector," he said.
"Restrictions have been eased on a number of fronts as a result of the progress we have made in the battle against Covid-19. We must not put that progress at risk.
"Responsible socialising means remaining vigilant about the virus and continuing to follow the public health advice.
"Irresponsible drinking can add to the pressures on hospital Emergency Departments and other public services. It can put you and others at risk."
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd urged revellers to act responsibly.
"Whilst we of course understand that people will want to go out and have a good time and enjoy themselves, we must remember that Coronavirus is still a serious risk to health," he said.
"The pandemic is not over. If you're planning to go out this weekend to your local pub when they reopen, our plea is simple - be sensible.
"Everyone needs to continue to follow the Government's guidance to mitigate the transmission of the virus, including social distancing, increased hygiene measures and following the instructions of staff.
"We would urge people to drink responsibly and maintain a safe environment for everyone. The vast majority of drinkers are responsible but we know some people will drink to excess and become vulnerable to harm or indeed cause harm to others.
"People need to be aware of how excess drinking and violent behaviour may impact the emergency services at this time also.
"The key advice is to know your limits, plan your night out and consider how you will get home safely.
"We do want people to enjoy themselves but please do so sensibly and with regard for others."