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Executive seeking 'legal advice' on making face masks compulsory on public transport

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(Victoria Jones/PA)

(Victoria Jones/PA)

PA

(Victoria Jones/PA)

The Executive is poised to issue a final decision on whether the wearing of face masks on public transport should be compulsory later this week after legal advice is made available this Thursday.

The development was disclosed on Monday at Stormont's press briefing with First Minister Arlene Foster, insisting that she wants it to be introduced in a way that is proportionate.

"We don't want to criminalise people because many people will not be able to wear masks because of medical issues," she said.

"It is important that we don't rush into things just for the sake of it. People expect us to do that as Government ministers."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said legal advice about wearing face coverings on public transport in Northern Ireland should be available on Thursday.

“We will come back to this issue on Thursday when we have the legal advice about how best to put things in place.," explained Mrs O'Neill.

“As Friday comes and more things open up and more people are moving around then wearing face coverings is obviously going to be a key part of that in terms of mitigations and being able to at least help to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Mrs Foster explained the matter wasn't on the Executive's agenda on Monday because there is "a need for us to have clarity around legal advice as to what’s the proper way to bring forward face coverings".

“The current position of the Executive is that we strongly recommend that people wear face coverings in closed settings such as public transport or other small areas," she added

“We would strongly recommend that at present. The Infrastructure Minister wants us to consider an issue around mandatory face coverings on public transport and we’re currently taking legal advice on that issue.

“I would imagine that matter will come before us on Thursday.”

The development comes as it was announced that groups of up to 30 will be allowed to meet outdoors in line with plans to further ease the lockdown in Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Robin Swann is expected to lay regulations on the issue on Monday evening.

The DUP leader said the decision "will not alter the situation for indoor home visits, pubs or restaurants or indeed hotel conventions".

Mrs Foster also reminded the public that as hairdressers, gyms and cafes reopen to act as "vital jigsaw pieces in the revival of our economy" but said it was not "business as usual".

Meanwhile Sinn Fein's vice-president said the message around people sticking to two-metres social distancing if it was possible had not been heard well enough.

She said there was less risk of spreading Covid-19 at two metres than one.

"I would urge all businesses to act responsibly, as so many already are.

"It is encouraging to see the work going on for reopening."

Both leaders also offered their condolences of the loved ones of Noah Donohoe , whose body was found at the weekend after extensive searches for the missing south Belfast teenager.

Mrs Foster said the death of Noah was a terrible blow to his family.

She paid tribute to a "talented and loving" 14-year-old who excelled at music and basketball.

"He was deeply-loved."

She told his parents: "You have been cruelly robbed of a young man who had a bright future ahead of him and a lot to offer our society."

Belfast Telegraph