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Fears ‘lack of understanding’ could aid Covid-19 spread as groups still gather in Armagh city

People are still meeting up in groups in the city centre despite government guidelines and moves to enforce social-distancing

Armagh city centre was deserted over the weekend

There have been concerns after many reports of large gatherings of people still occurring in Armagh city centre, despite government guidelines to tackle Covid-19.

Whilst many of us are staying at home in order to stay safe and battle the coronavirus pandemic, others continue to flout social distancing measures which have been outlined.

There have been notable large gatherings at various points across the city centre, with images also circulating of a crowded bus stop on the Lonsdale Road in Armagh.

Sinn Fein Councillor Garath Keating told Armagh I : “I am very alarmed and disappointed at reports and photographs which have emerged of large groups of people still gathering and not adhering to social distancing measures locally.

“When so many are doing so much, and in particular when we see the positive efforts of those involved in the Armagh Covid-19 response community action, others are continuing to potentially spread Covid-19 by failing to take simple social distancing measures.

“I would reiterate calls from our health professionals for people to be very mindful to keep safe distance and avoid unnecessary pursuits and gatherings”.

SDLP Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon believes that the issue is “particularly relevant to newcomer communities” and he has raised this at a party leaders’ teleconference.

He said: “I have asked that communication is drafted in other languages to try to get the message out there through social media and leaflets.

“They may understand what is happening in their home country but may not know the degree of lockdown and restrictions which are in place here.

“I am hoping that between the council and the PCSP, some sort of awareness campaign will be put together.

“I raised this after being contacted by some people, not out of any racist motive but out of concern, not only for the indigenous people but also members of those newcomer communities.”

Ulster Unionist Councillor Sam Nicholson also pointed to “a lack of understanding” and confirmed that the issue of how to make all communities aware had been discussed at council.

He said: “It does concern me, but it is in the hands of the police. They have been given the powers and I hope that they will act to try to advise these people that they can’t be doing what they are doing.

“It is a difficult time for everyone. We are all doing things which we are not used to doing. It is an awful time but we all have to play our part to try to at least curb the virus from spreading and to give the NHS staff the chance to deal with it, otherwise, it could implode and they may not be able to deal with the numbers.

“It is crazy times for all of us, but we have to keep to the guidelines in order to minimise this.”

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