Increased police presence across Northern Ireland to enforce Covid regulations

Rebecca Black, PA
·3-min read

Police in Northern Ireland are maintaining a presence at beauty spots to enforce coronavirus regulations on St Patrick’s Day.

The traditional celebrations, including a large parade in Belfast city centre, have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Officers are also on the ground in the Holylands area of south Belfast, where a number of gatherings have been broken up in recent weeks.

PSNI assistant chief constable Alan Todd previously warned that those caught breaking rules against gathering in groups could expect to face stiff fines.

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And he said people who had been fined before risked even tougher penalties.

Joining a patrol in Downpatrick, a town with historic links to St Patrick, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne thanked the public, the vast majority of whom, he said, are adhering to the coronavirus restrictions.

Earlier, First Minister Arlene Foster urged that St Patrick’s Day celebrations must be different this year amid the ongoing pandemic.

“I think most people see St Patrick’s Day as a day to come together with others and we are concerned that particularly in some of the places where we would see crowds gathering that people would do that again this year,” she told the BBC.

Coronavirus – Tue Mar 16, 2021
First Minister Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

“We are sending out a very strong message that people should of course mark St Patrick’s Day but they should do it in a way that doesn’t cause problems later on in the month. So they should do it with their family, inside their own bubble and really to have thought to those people who haven’t been able to access care in our hospitals because they have had to deal with the pandemic.

“So please give some thought to what you are doing today.

“We know it is yet again another sacrifice for people but we’re asking you to stay with us because we are now moving into relaxations. I think people should take optimism from that, however we need people to stay apart today.”

Mrs Foster also defended the Stormont Executive’s cautious approach to exiting lockdown.

“We are in a five-party executive; from my perspective we would like to move in a more steady way, others are more cautious,” she said.

“However I do think it is very important that we do need to protect all of our services in our healthcare – and the best way to protect all of our services and our healthcare system is to make sure that we don’t see another rise in Covid cases.”

No further deaths of patients who previously tested positive for Covid-19 were reported in Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

However, another 161 confirmed cases of the virus were recorded by the Department of Health in the last 24-hour reporting period.