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Covid doesn’t care about orange or green, warns Robin Swann

Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that Covid-19 “does not care what foot you kick with” after hundreds of Rangers fans gathered in Belfast to celebrate their team being crowned Scottish champions.

Mr Swann said health officials were closely monitoring whether the weekend title celebrations would impact on the number of people diagnosed with Covid in the coming days.

He also warned against “whataboutery” and pleaded with the public to adhere to the regulations.

Appearing at the Department of Health’s weekly press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Swann was asked for his reaction to hundreds of people breaking the law on the Shankill Road in west Belfast on Sunday.

He replied: “Let’s be clear, it shouldn’t have happened. The club urged fans to follow government guidelines (and) Steven Gerrard said the same, but I think one thing we shouldn’t allow those scenes to descend into is a series of whataboutery.

“All the rules are there for all our protections and we are asked not to mix with others and to keep ourselves safe.

“So, someone arguing that because someone else broke the rules, it’s okay for us to do it, that doesn’t make sense.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right. This virus does not care what foot you kick with or what sport you follow, so the potential of there being spreaders within that crowd... we will wait to see now over the next few days.

“It will be unfortunate and it will be regrettable if that event does lead to an increase in Covid infections within that area.”

As Mr Swann issued his rebuke, the chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, also expressed his disappointment and called for people “to wise up and grow up”.


Health Minister Robin Swann. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Health Minister Robin Swann. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Health Minister Robin Swann. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

“People are still dealing with the consequences of Covid-19. There are eight families grieving today,” he said.

“There are many, many more people in hospital. There are family members who are concerned about the outcome for those individuals.

“Please, let’s stick with this. We all know what we should be doing and we know what we shouldn’t be doing, so please continue to do the right thing.”

He also paid tribute to young people for their efforts to drive down Covid-19 infection rates, while also warning against complacency in the coming weeks.

“I know with the weather getting better in the coming weeks, there will be greater opportunities and indeed temptation to mix and meet up with friends, (but) please don’t, not just yet,” Dr McBride said.

“Please celebrate St Patrick’s Day respectfully within your own household and likewise for Easter.”

The comments came as eight more Covid deaths were reported and 147 new cases diagnosed.

Meanwhile, the PSNI has said it is “currently examining” the possibility of introducing asymptomatic testing for its officers.

It comes as the Department of Health revealed details of a targeted expansion of asymptomatic testing in different workplaces.

Lateral flow tests will be used in the workplace testing initiative and will help in the expansion of asymptomatic testing across a range of settings.

Criteria for inclusion in the programme includes those performing critical functions or delivering key services, people who have more than 50 employees who cannot work from home and people working in those jobs that involve higher exposure to risk of infection for staff or customers.

On the basis of evidence on infections in the workplace, agri-food, manufacturing, essential retail and construction have been prioritised for the first phase of the programme.

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