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Harsher penalties and increased fines announced for anyone breaching Covid-19 regulations

The number of places where wearing face coverings will be mandatory has also been extended

Fixed penalties for those who floutCovid-19 regulations are to be increased.

And the number of places where wearing face coverings will be mandatory has also been extended.

First Minister Arlene Foster, speaking at a daily briefing this evening, said there was “a small band of voices who believe the risk from Covid-19 is not that serious”.

This, she said, was “not true”.

And in condemning those who refuse to take heed of the seriousness of the situation, she made an announcement of a number of decisions taken by the Executive to “strengthen current interventions to increase their effectiveness”.

Face coverings, in addition to retail and hospitality, must now be worn in a number of other settings.

First Minister Foster said this included when boarding a plane, in taxis, private buses, visiting Government offices, such as benefits offices, in banks, building societies and credit unions, as well as driving instructors and those under instruction.

In relation to the penalties, the fine of £60 which would double up will now have a single fixed tariff of £200.

There will also be the potential of a £10,000 fine or fixed penalty notice of up to £1,000 for not closing a business as required.

The Executive is also making two new offences which are liable for financial penalty.

These are for breaching of early closure requirements for hospitality and for not implementing measures to maintain social distancing.

The Executive is also giving consideration to making it an offence for organising large social gatherings.

First Minister Foster said there was a “rising curve of cases and hospitalisations” and said the Executive will be “taking a significiant strategic stock take of the situation”.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said there had been more than 5,000 cases in the past week.

And she added: “We’re past the point of warnings. This is real and this is happening now.”

Appealing to people to apply the original safety measures she said: “We can all make a difference now if we all double down and do what we can to prevent the spread.”

Deputy First Minister O’Neill said we are “edging closer and closer to a vacinne” but urged “until then you need to protect yourself and others”.

 

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