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Stay apart at Easter to help save lives, public in Northern Ireland are urged

People in Northern Ireland have been told they can do something special by staying apart this Easter.

In a heartfelt plea, Stormont ministers said that by remaining at home, we will save lives.

It came as a leading doctor said Northern Ireland is at a critical time in tackling coronavirus as hospitals prepare for a rise in admissions in the week ahead as the expected peak of the virus nears.

Yesterday it was revealed another 10 people have died in Northern Ireland after testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the death toll to 92.

First Minister Arlene Foster joined with Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and other Executive ministers in a video message stressing the importance of staying at home to limit the spread of Covid-19.

We can help to save lives by staying at home, protecting the most vulnerable, protecting our frontline workers, and protecting our health service Arlene Foster

Police have ramped up patrols across the region, targeting beaches, parks and other visitor spots, amid fears a combination of good weather and Easter traditions will tempt people to ignore social distancing guidelines.

Mrs Foster said: "Easter is a special time for families and we understand how difficult this year will be for people.

"But this Easter, even though we can't be together, we can all still do something special.

"We can help to save lives by staying at home, protecting the most vulnerable, protecting our frontline workers, and protecting our health service.

"We should remember that the message of Easter is all about hope. We know and trust that these difficult times will pass.

"By staying home this weekend, and the days to come, we will protect each other and our whole community and prevent heartbreak being brought to someone's door."

Ms O'Neill added: "We are depending on our healthcare staff and other frontline workers to get us through this time of crisis.

I know this isn't easy, but it won't last forever. So please keep your resolve and don't go out unless it's essential Michelle O'Neill

"We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude, and the best way we can show them how much we appreciate what they are doing is by staying at home.

"Easter is normally a time when people come together and spend time with each other.

"But this isn't a normal Easter, and if we behave as normal then more people will lose their lives.

"I know this isn't easy, but it won't last forever. So please keep your resolve and don't go out unless it's essential.

"It's in your gift to save lives."

Their message was echoed by Dr Gerry Waldron, head of health protection at the Public Health Agency.

He said: "Coronavirus is circulating in our community. People are dying. One of the best things we can do to slow its spread is to follow the advice to stay at home.

"We appreciate how frustrating this is, particularly if you have been apart from parents, siblings or other family members for several weeks, or are experiencing 'cabin fever', but it is essential in the battle against this virus."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also urged people to stay at home this weekend.

"This is a national effort, and every single person in this country can play their part in this plan," he said.

Meanwhile, the PSNI has launched a webpage for people to report alleged breaches of social distancing rules.

People will now be able to report any instances of concern including gatherings of people; people repeatedly travelling for non-essential purposes; or a bar or licensed premises remaining open, using an online form.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd has encouraged people to use the facility "sensibly".

"We want to resolve situations where the restrictions are being contravened without having to resort to enforcement powers or issuing fines," he said.

Mr Todd also revealed that police had received nearly 1,000 reports of alleged breaches of the current lockdown measures in less than two weeks.

Belfast Telegraph