Coronavirus Bill to be debated by Northern Ireland Assembly
The Northern Ireland Assembly is to debate legislation on emergency powers to force people to stay at home.
On Monday night the prime minister introduced the Coronavirus Bill, which introduces sweeping measures aimed at preventing the spread of the disease.
Boris Johnson’s address marked a major shift in the government’s efforts to tackle Covid-19.
People can only leave their homes for very limited purposes such as shopping for necessities and medicine.
One form of exercise per day and essential travel to work is allowed, but gatherings of more than two people have also been banned.
On Monday, First Minister Arlene Foster said there would be a “wave of deaths” in Northern Ireland if people did not obey social distancing rules as the coronavirus will spread.
Commenting on the latest measures, Mrs Foster said: “These new rules on social distancing may seem extreme but they are absolutely crucial in slowing the spread of this virus.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill added: “The scale of this approach reflects the gravity of the situation we are faced with.
“These are very stringent measures aimed at preserving our health service, protecting our health workers and ultimately saving lives.”
The government is not calling the latest legislative changes a lockdown, but police will have powers to enforce the rules – including through fines and breaking up gatherings.
On Monday 20 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Northern Ireland, bringing the total to 148. Three people have died.
The new government measures will take effect through its Coronavirus Bill, and will be reviewed in three weeks’ time.
Assembly members at Stormont will get to have their say on the legislation on Tuesday morning – once passed, the executive office will get an unprecedented raft of new powers.
The first and deputy first ministers have again urged people to follow public health advice, to wash your hands often – and to stay at home.
Other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship must also close immediately.
Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed.
The government is also stopping all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies – but funerals will be allowed.
Published at Tue, 24 Mar 2020 06:24:51 +0000
By Tokutomi Masaki on 2020-03-24 13:36:21