The First and Deputy First Ministers today announced increased penalties for breaches of Covid-19 restrictions as cases continue to rise in Northern Ireland.
Prime Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill addressed the media via video conference, where they expressed concern about the increase in cases in the country.
There were 923 new Coivd-19 infections in the last 24 hours, with 4,674 people testing positive in the last week.
Increased local lockdown restrictions have been introduced in the Derry City and Strabane areas due to an increase in cases.
The death toll in Northern Ireland from the virus now stands at 587, after another death in the last 24 hours.
There are also 120 hospitalized patients infected with the virus and 15 patients are in intensive care and 11 on ventilators.
Follow our live blog below for a full recap of the event
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When is the circuit breaker planned?
Ms O’Neill said the executive branch had big decisions to make, but they would be well balanced.
She says they are not taken lightly and tries to find a balanced way forward.
Ms Foster again called on people to “work with us” and said it was not a “good place” to have the highest infection rate in NI.
Ms O’Neill says she is “absolutely” against a herd immunity policy.
Ms Foster said this was an issue that had not been discussed with the Department of Health.
Christmas will happen
Ms Foster stressed that despite some young people’s concerns, “Christmas will happen this year”.
The public has been warned by ministers to ‘only travel if necessary’.
Ms Foster said that travel restrictions were constantly being reviewed.
88% of new cases under 60
Ms O’Neill said 88% of cases were in people under the age of 60.
But those living in poverty and overcrowded homes will naturally be more vulnerable to the virus.
Ms Foster said the way data was collected made it difficult to identify trends in the spread of the virus, but analysis would take place in the coming months.
Ms O’Neill says an ‘all islands’ approach is needed to tackle the virus and says the WHO has found Ireland has the advantage of being an island.
Ms Foster said decisions had been made in a flexible and pragmatic way, supported by the UK Government and said we would share information with ROI and said this would continue.
Ms O’Neill said NI “appears to be in a worse situation at the moment” and saluted the Taoiseach calling Boris Johnson about NI earlier today.
Ms Foster said she was sure the Prime Minister would want NI to fight the virus.
Ms Foster said of enforcement, “we recognize that the police cannot be everywhere”.
She said they were trying to take a “holistic” approach to enforcement, with Ms O’Neill urging the public to “work with us” and warning that another full lockdown could be imposed.
“We need to recover”
Ms Foster says people have become “very comfortable and relaxed” after a summer where the virus was at ‘low levels’ and unfortunately things are picking up speed again and people are not complying with the restrictions.
She said “we must recover” to protect those vulnerable to the virus.
Ms O’Neill says the management needs the financial support to support businesses and families.
Ms Foster dismissed claims she was “denying livelihoods at the expense of lives”.
She says decisions were made based on the numbers and evidence.
She says they don’t want to damage businesses and livelihoods and people’s mental health and well-being with decisions.
Referring to the new Covid restriction fines, Ms O’Neill said: “If compliance is not up to par, we need more enforcement.”
She said there would be more collaboration with local authorities and the PSNI to see how they could enforce restrictions and improve co-ordination where necessary.
She said the key is for the audience to come together.
“Essential NI receives financial support”
Ms O’Neill says it is vital for NI to receive funding from the UK Government so it can take the necessary steps to support families, workers and businesses.
Ms Foster said a small package had been proposed to support the people of the North West and it was important that we needed the Prime Minister’s support as we moved towards more restrictive measures.
“The power is in our hands to stop the spread”
The number of infections in Belfast is not as high as in Derry City and Strabane, and Ms Foster says it has “moderated”.
She praised areas in NI that have taken action to slow the rate of infection.
She says they will continue to monitor all areas regardless.
Ms O’Neill said the curve of infections in Newry, Morne and Down was stabilizing because of people’s actions and “the power is in our hands to stop the spread”.
“Catch it, kill it, throw it away”
Ms O’Neill reiterated her concerns about some people’s compliance with Covid-19 restrictions.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that this will pass, we are getting closer and closer to a vaccine.
“Until then you can protect yourself and protect others.”
She asked anyone with symptoms to self-isolate, saying “we’re back to catch it, kill it and trash it”.
Ask the government for help
Ms O’Neill said the executive would seek financial support from the UK government to help fight the virus.
NHS capacity concerns
Ms O’Neill says health and social care workers are worried about the approaching winter period and how she will deal with the pandemic.
She says the public put the brakes on infections in the first wave and can do it again “because lives depend on it”.
She urges the public to “do whatever is necessary to protect health care and save lives.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill offered her condolences to the family of the person who died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.
She says NI has “passed the warning point” and called on everyone to act now to stop the spread of the virus.
“Our hospitals are now caring for 120 people with Covid-19,” she said.
She warned that NI could see more hospitalizations in two to three weeks than in the first wave of infections as “more families lose a loved one.”
Circumstances call for action
Prime Minister says it is preferable for people with disabilities to work rather than face coercive measures.
She also thanked the vast majority of people who followed the guidelines, saying they were “protecting lives and livelihoods”.
She says the “circumstances call for action,” and it’s clear that cases and hospitalizations have increased and steps are needed to shift the infection curve.
These are “some of the most difficult decisions” leaders have ever had to make.
Ms Foster said new penalties have been imposed on those who breach Covid restrictions.
To date there have been 1,156 fines of £60, 203 fines and 27 fines of £1,000 for failing to isolate after international travel.
A one-off fee of £200 FPN has been introduced. Three other offenses now carry a conviction and a £10,000 fine, such as:
Ms Foster said facilities where face coverings must be worn had been expanded.
They must be worn at boarding points, in taxis and private buses, in banks and credit unions, and must also be worn by driving instructors and students.
She urged everyone to wear a face covering in any public place, saying it was “just common sense”.
First Minister Arlene Foster said NI was seeing a gradual increase in hospital admissions and warned that hundreds of people could require hospital treatment in the coming weeks.
She said: “The Executive today reflected on the serious and dire situation in which we find ourselves.”
She also warned others not to relax and take it seriously because of the virus.
press conference begins
The press conference is now underway as the First and Deputy Prime Ministers begin to address the media.
Increase in hospital admissions
It is clear that the penalties for the tightening of the Covid-19 restrictions can be increased today.
The age group with the biggest increase in Coivd-19 cases is between 20 and 39 years old, with 1,927 cases recorded in the past week.
This is followed by the 40- to 59-year-olds with 1,355 new cases.
Conversations with Boris Johnson
Michelle O’Neill today called for talks with Boris Johnson, saying the situation in Northern Ireland was deteriorating “at an alarming rate”.
As joint leaders, we again called for an emergency meeting with Boris Johnson.
It is clear that our situation is deteriorating at an alarming rate. We are past the warning point. We need immediate financial support for families, workers and businesses.
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) October 8, 2020
Increasing cases of Covid-19
In the past week, more than 1,000 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Belfast, as well as Derrty City and Strabane.
Derry City and Strabane have the highest infection rates in the country with 704.9 per 100,000 residents. The rate in Belfast is 343.2 per 100,000.
Ministers hold press conference
Prime Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill will address the media via remote video link today at 4:45 p.m.
Source: Bel Fast Live