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Cummings controversy has damaged coronavirus messaging in NI – health minister

Robin Swann said it is ‘too early to allow distractions to take away from the key public messages’.

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Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann (Niall Carson/PA)

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann (Niall Carson/PA)

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann (Niall Carson/PA)

Controversy over the “ill-judged” actions of Dominic Cummings has damaged public messaging about complying with coronavirus rules in Northern Ireland, Stormont’s health minister has warned.

Robin Swann urged people in the region not to be distracted by the controversy surrounding the Prime Minister’s senior adviser and told them to stick to the guidance and regulations set by the devolved executive.

Referring to Mr Cummings and the media attention his trip to Durham has generated, Mr Swann said: “As ill-judged as many of his actions were, I would urge everyone not to lose sight that we are still very much in the midst of this virus and the grief and loss of so many families is still far too raw.

“It is far too early to allow distractions to take away from the key public messages.”

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Mr Swann described Dominic Cummings’ actions as ‘ill-judged’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Swann described Dominic Cummings’ actions as ‘ill-judged’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

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Mr Swann described Dominic Cummings’ actions as ‘ill-judged’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Swann added: “I believe there’s no person, no position or point of privilege that is above the guidance on the rules and regulations, no matter who they are.

“Because this virus is no respecter of any of those three positions, and no-one is immune from Covid-19, no matter where they are. So, in regards to the damage in the message, yes there has been implications, there will be implications.

“But I ask the people of Northern Ireland to stick with the guidance that is coming from the Northern Ireland Executive.”

I'm asking them, no matter what's happening elsewhere, stick by the guidance that is coming forward from the executiveRobin Swann

The minister fielded questions at the daily Covid-19 briefing on a day when Northern Ireland reported no new coronavirus-linked deaths – the first time that has happened since the outbreak took hold in March.

“We’ve reported zero deaths from our statistics that have come through – that’s an achievement, that’s an achievement that we’ve been able to get to that point through the dedication of the people of Northern Ireland actually abiding by the rules and regulations,” he said.

“So I’m asking them, no matter what’s happening elsewhere, stick by the guidance that is coming forward from the executive.”

Mr Swann insisted compliance with guidelines and rules would be vital in the months ahead as a second wave of the virus was “widely expected”.

“So we must keep fighting back,” he said.

“We must keep our defences up at all times. Because actions have consequences. So don’t let someone you love, or someone you don’t know, suffer the consequences of your actions.”

PA