Fines in relation to Covid-19 restriction breaches have been issued to a bar and a gym in the Armagh area, police have confirmed.
This news comes in the wake of the Chief Executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust warning that the ABC Council area is the “epicentre” of Northern Ireland’s battle with coronavirus.
At last month’s full council, Shane Devlin presented the bleak facts and called on the local authority to work with the Trust to make sure residents redouble their efforts to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.
And speaking at a Community Engagement Meeting for Armagh and Cusher this week, Sergeant Gwyneth Buchanan stated that police were trying to be “as consistent as possible” with regards to calls around Covid.
The officer commented that there had been issues around gyms at the beginning of the pandemic, surrounding what they “could and couldn’t do”.
She said: “There was two gyms in particular. One gym owner was spoken to by police; he was advised what he couldn’t do. Eventually he understood where we were coming from and he continued to close.
“However, there was one gym in the Armagh area that did receive a £1000 fine for being opened when they shouldn’t have.”
Sergeant Buchanan also pointed to an occurrence the previous week, when in a routine stop of a vehicle with a defect, police found three young people from three different households, all of which had previously received tickets for breaching the restrictions.
Meanwhile, also at the meeting, Inspector Kieran Quinn claimed that breaches did appear to be on the wane in the area.
He said: “There’s no doubt that the BT60 area in particular was the highest in the UK and we did see that people were not complying.
“But certainly when I’m looking at the figures coming in in the morning report, I see very little.
“The business community have stepped up to the mark and they’re not open for business.”
However, Inspector Quinn did inform the meeting that a pub in a village in the Armagh district had been subject to a “heavy penalty fine” for breaching restrictions.
“The message is getting out there, if you are at a party, if you are breaching Covid (restrictions), you will get a ticket,” declared the Inspector.
He said: “There are some minor breaches but the responsibility is on the community to comply with the regulations because it is a health pandemic.
“We’re trying to keep the hospitals from not being able to cope. So, there’s an onus on everybody but what I am seeing is less house parties and less breaches being reported to us.”
Inspector Quinn stated that police had received reports regarding those from the “foreign national community” entering stores without masks.
“The law around that is grey,” he said. “We don’t even have the power to enforce that. We can only encourage, support the staff, and try to get them to wear the masks, but I think this last week or so or two, there seems to be more compliance with the Covid regulations.”
Sergeant Kelly Moffett spoke of police plans to distribute literature in the native language of these individuals in order to better educate that part of the community on the restrictions.