Arlene Foster has urged the public to have patience with the coronavirus lockdown, following reports that some people are starting to break free from restrictions.
Speaking at today’s media briefing, where a further ten deaths due to Covid-19 were announced, the First Minister asked the public to remain patient and continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
The total number of hospital deaths recorded now stands at 309, rising to 412 when including NISRA statistics.
“We are conscious that a lot has been asked of the public in recent weeks, however now is not the time for impatience to get the better of us,” she said.
“We still have some way to go, if people go back to gathering in large numbers and public spaces and don’t listen to the guidance on social distancing, then they run the risk of another spike.
“Having come so far in containing this disease it will be more than just a crying shame to undo that collective effort. It will be catastrophic for families, for communities and for society as small as Northern Ireland’s. And as the Prime Minister said, when we start to think about relaxation we have to guard against losing control.
We must keep going. We must save lives. We have more work to do here to battle Covid-19, so continue to work with us and we will get to the point where we can give you light at the end of the tunnelMichelle O'Neill
“If people act as if the virus is beaten, then the UK Government and devolved administrations will be forced again to slam on the brakes on this country and on the economy. That’s not where we want to be and we cannot afford to get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill added that she was disappointed to hear reports of “some people who seem to have decided for themselves that it’s time to relax the restrictions”.
“For the most part, the vast majority of people have been making personal sacrifices for the greater good, and thank you for that,” she said.
“But we must keep going. We must save lives. We have more work to do here to battle Covid-19, so continue to work with us and we will get to the point where we can give you light at the end of the tunnel.”
The First and Deputy First Ministers held differing views over comments from Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald at the weekend that the Covid-19 outbreak has prove a greater catalyst for Irish unity that Brexit.
It would be important for us to look back with hindsight when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, but for others their priorities lie elsewhereArlene Foster
Arlene Foster called the comments “regrettable”.
“I thin the most important job for me is to save lives, to make sure that our National Health Service, a great British institution, is not in any way overwhelmed.
“I do think it is regrettable that other leaders are in constitutional naval-gazing at this time. It would be important for us to look back with hindsight when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, but for others their priorities lie elsewhere. I think that is regrettable. My most important job at the moment is to warn, to protect and that’s what I’m focussed on doing.”
But Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the comments were not making a political point.
It just makes sense, it’s not a political point,” said Mrs O’Neill.
“It’s actually just about good public health. I’m glad that we have a memorandum of understanding now which actually allows us to work together across this island, to share our practices to look at how we can procure together, to look at all-island modelling We live on an island so we have a natural advantage.
"It’s important that we use that to the advantage of the people who live on this island. Certainly I welcome the fact that we are having regular engagement with colleagues across the island."
First Minister Arlene Foster also welcomed the return of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Downing Street after recovering from coronavirus.
“It’s good to see him back in Downing Street at a crucial time for the country as we battle against the spread of coronavirus and defend our health service,” she said.