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Coronavirus: Social distancing will be introduced and shops closed due to 'selfish' behaviour, says Swann

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General view of Belfast City centre at lunch time on Monday March 23rd.  Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

General view of Belfast City centre at lunch time on Monday March 23rd. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

General view of Belfast City centre at lunch time on Monday March 23rd. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Health Minister Robin Swann has said that he believes forced social distancing and the closure of non-essential shops will be introduced imminently across the UK.

Mr Swann said he believed the measures were necessary after large numbers of people ignored the Government's advice to self isolate over the weekend.

Parks and beaches across the UK were filled with people over the weekend, Belfast's Nutts Corner Market went ahead as normal on Sunday despite calls from politicians for the market to be cancelled.

Mr Swann also warned that nobody in Northern Ireland is immune from catching the coronavirus after revealing a third of 128 cases are people under the age of 44.

The health minister said those who ignored the social-distancing guidance were "irresponsible".

"It was selfish, people are not weighing up the seriousness of the situation we are in," he told BBC Talkback ahead of a Cobra meeting.

Speaking about the worst case scenario of 15,000 deaths he said: "If people don't help us help them that's really where we are going."

Mr Swann said legislation introduced in Westminster tomorrow would give Northern Ireland the power to act independently if necessary and he wouldn't hesitate to use it.

"This is not only a virus that affects the old or the elderly, from our stats here in Northern Ireland at this minute in time over a third of those who have tested positive for Covid-19 are under the age of 44," he said.

"A third are between the ages of 49-69, so this is not solely a virus that affects the elderly, this affects everybody across all generations, across all ages and across all communities so there is nobody out there who is going to be immune to this.

"There is nobody out there who doesn't have a part to play in stopping spreading this virus."

Mr Swann said tougher measures were needed as people were not following the advice.

"I think we're going to be looking at enforced social distancing and the closure of non-essential shops," the UUP MLA said.

Mr Swann said fines for people who ignored the measures were being considered.

"I don't think at this time we can take anything off the table to drive home to people about how serious their actions and their responsibilities are at this minute in time," he said.

Asked if he expected the new regulations to be introduced on Monday Mr Swann said: "We could be moving at that speed because what we see across the rest of the UK and Europe is that Covid-19 is moving at that speed".

He said if people were forced to isolate quickly there was a chance of "slowing down the infection rate".

"I don't think at this time we can take anything off the table to drive home to people about how serious their actions and their responsibilities are at this minute in time," Mr Swann said.

Belfast Telegraph