Coronavirus 'could dwarf impact of Troubles', warns Robin Swann
Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann has told the public to expect the introduction of "draconian" restrictions on movement within days as he warned coronavirus "could very rapidly dwarf the impact of the Troubles on our society."
He was speaking as it was confirmed there are 20 new cases of the virus in the north, bringing the total to 148.
There have been 2,692 tests carried out to date. The Department of Health provided figures for the number of people who have been infected in each age group:
Two people have died after contracting the virus.
In a plea to the public today, Mr Swann said: “The very same virus that is creating untold devastation in Italy and elsewhere is here and spreading in our community right now. It threatens us with an onslaught.
“In a few short weeks, this onslaught could very rapidly dwarf the impact of the Troubles on our society.
“But we are not powerless in this situation. We can push it back. We can fight back.
Mr Swann branded as "selfish" the actions of those who had ignored social distancing guidance amid the emergency.
In a press conference at Stormont, he said once the new powers were made available to the powersharing executive tomorrow, people should expect to see restrictions enforced at some point this week.
"When we see the response of some people in the general public it's what's actually needed here in Northern Ireland, and we'll have to enforce that," he said.
"Those draconian measures will save lives - it's as simple as that.
"This isn't something we can wait weeks on, this isn't something that we will wait many days on. These are measures that if we use now, use constructively, we can really have an impact here on Northern Ireland and save lives."
He was extremely critical of those who had flouted the guidance.
"Those who are failing to social distance are probably condemning those they come into contact with the distinct possibility that they are going to contract Covid-19," he said.
"They may not suffer the worst implications themselves but they can be assured that they will pass it on to someone who will come to the worst ravages that Covid 19 will bring."
Asked to react to images of people gathering in large numbers, Mr Swann replied: "I couldn't fathom the selfishness of those individuals, after the repeated warnings that we had put out in regard to the actions that somebody takes today will have an impact on their loved ones in a fortnight's time, in a month's time.
"That will have an adverse impact and a dramatic impact on our health service.
"So those people who don't see social distancing as their responsibility they're selfish, and they will put enormous pressure on our health service, if not end the lives of their loved ones."