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Coronavirus: Hang on and stay at home over Easter, urges Stormont scientific adviser

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A photograph from the PSNI’s Facebook page of cars parked on the north coast despite people being urged not to travel for exercise

A photograph from the PSNI’s Facebook page of cars parked on the north coast despite people being urged not to travel for exercise

A photograph from the PSNI’s Facebook page of cars parked on the north coast despite people being urged not to travel for exercise

Northern Ireland's Chief Scientific Adviser has appealed to the public to "hang on" and stay at home over Easter.

Professor Ian Young said now was the wrong time to relax as Northern Ireland headed into the bank holiday weekend, with the PSNI also urging people to only leave the house if absolutely necessary.

Gardai have also warned those staying at holiday homes that was now their main residence and they should not leave.

On Wednesday, it was announced a further five patients have died after contracting the coronavirus in Northern Ireland.

The total number of people who have died with the virus is now 78, while a further 84 cases of the virus have been confirmed, bringing the Northern Ireland total to 406.

Professor Young said people needed to stick to the restrictions.

"We're just beginning to see that perhaps this is having benefit, we have the Easter weekend coming up, maybe with some good weather, people may be tempted to go out and about a bit more," he said, speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"But this is just the wrong time to do it. We need to hang on and continue to adhere as strictly as we can to the current measures."

Meanwhile, the Giant’s Causeway is among the National Trust properties which closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Stay at home to prevent the spread of infection Jeremy Lindsay

The PSNI urged people to exercise responsibly.

PSNI Superintendent Jeremy Lindsay added: “With warmer weather forecast and the longer, lighter days following the clocks changing, many people will want to get out and about and enjoy the fresh air this weekend so I am urging everyone to continue to follow the health advice; stay at home to prevent the spread of infection.”

Mr Lindsay added: “The very simple health advice is that you should only leave home when it is absolutely essential and it is encouraging that the vast majority of people do appear to be following the health guidelines.”

It has been deemed a reasonable excuse to travel for the purpose of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services where it is not possible to do so from home, police said.

It is also a reasonable excuse to travel for essential matters such as seeking medical assistance, obtaining basic necessities including food and medical supplies, providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person, donating blood or attending a funeral of a close family member.

The police commander added: “The legislation does not, however, provide that you may travel for the purpose of exercise and therefore, like our colleagues in health, we would advise you not to do this.”

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Sean Bateson, said: “This will be an Easter bank holiday weekend like no other and it’s crucial that we continue to do whatever we can to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“Essential travel does not include visits to holiday houses, or caravans. Stay at home, protect yourself, your family, friends, neighbours and the wider community.

“Measures around social distancing and travel are in place to keep us safe, but they will only work if we all play our part.”

Everyone will be given the opportunity to comply to the regulations Drew Harris

In the Republic of Ireland, the government has again pleaded with the public not to go to holiday homes or make unnecessary travel during the Easter holidays.

Liz Canavan, assistant secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach, said: "If you do all of the work you put in so far to suppress the virus won't be enough.

"The only way to slow the spread is to stay at home.

"It's hard but we need to continue what we are doing to protect our lives and those on the front line."

Gardai have been given new powers to restrict people's movements and gatherings for the next five days under emergency legislation.

There will be 50 checkpoints on main roads across the country from Wednesday to discourage people from travelling over Easter.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said if people were currently staying in their holiday homes that was now considered their place of residence and they should not leave during the current restrictions.

"We want to be proportionate, and provide a graduated response," he said.

"Everyone will be given the opportunity to comply to the regulations. They may be asked to return home, they may be asked to change their behaviour, whatever that is. But people will be given the opportunity to comply, before we go anywhere near enforcement powers."

The penalties for those who flout the regulations include fines of up to €2,500 (£2,200) and up to six months in prison.

Belfast Telegraph