Health minister Robin Swann has hit out at shoppers for ignoring Covid-19 guidelines over the weekend.
assive crowds gathered at retail outlets and shops across Northern Ireland after the Executive announced tough new measures to try and bring Covid-19 under control.
All non-essential retail, as well as close contact services and entertainment and leisure venues, will close this Friday and will remain shut for at least two weeks.
Speaking this morning outside Queen’s University where he was viewing the launch of a mass rapid testing programme, Mr Swann expressed his disappointment at images of shoppers failing to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
“I suppose one of the things I was very disappointed about was some photographs of people not following the simple guidance out there,” he said.
“That is spaces and faces and people not observing social distancing.
“We have a period of time before lockdown and I would ask people to use that time responsibly, to think of the responsibility to each other and to the retail sector.”
On Saturday photographs emerged of a long queue outside Primark in Castle Street in Belfast.
Today Primark responded to the issue.
A spokesperson said: “Nothing matters more to us than the safety and wellbeing of our employees and customers.
"As we reopen our stores in Northern Ireland in line with government advice, we continue to have extensive health and safety measures in place including a strict social distancing protocol and limits on the number of customers allowed in store.
"Dedicated employees and security staff are on hand to help ensure these measures are adhered to. We continue to closely follow all safety advice from government across all our stores.”
But there was anger from the business community.
Bob McCoubrey, who owns Mourne Seafood Bar in central Belfast, said he could not understand why his restaurant had to stay closed while shops were still open.
He retweeted the photo of the queue outside Primark with a message that read: "Hard to accept pictures like this when we can't even use our outside area."
Today the Chief Medical Officer said there was a greater risk of spreading infection in hospitality settings.
Dr Michael McBride told the BBC's Nolan Show: "In restaurants and in pubs, individuals are engaged in different interaction, they are closer together for a longer period of time and the risk is therefore greater."
He said the retail sector is putting in place measures to restrict the number of people in their stores.
Dr McBride added: "The consequence of limiting the number of people indoors is that there may be, where there is demand for a particular retail outlet, there may be individuals outside waiting to come in.
"It is also important that those queues are managed appropriately, socially distanced, but they are outside and we need to bear that in mind."