The police have told paramilitaries across Northern Ireland to lift threats on communities and to think of frontline health workers and allow them to focus on the coronavirus battle.
The head of the Paramilitary Crime Task Force has warned those seeking to exploit communities during the global health emergency to stop immediately - or risk facing the consequences of their actions.
Detective Chief Inspector Martin Cummings said: “We are aware that people hiding under the convenient flags of various so-called paramilitary groupings have been issuing threats to those living within their communities.
“Let me be clear that this has to stop immediately. It is wrong on so many levels and particularly during the coronavirus pandemic when people are adjusting to a different way of life. Threats create fear within communities who are already trying to cope with the pressures of the pandemic."
He said those issuing threats should also think very hard about the impact on frontline health service workers who are already working tirelessly to save people’s lives.
"Paramedics, nurses, doctors and all other NHS and care workers need to be allowed to focus all their efforts on treating and saving people with Covid-19 and other unavoidable injuries and health conditions," he said.
"To add any more stress to their already stretched resource is not only selfish but taking a reckless risk with people’s lives.
“Individuals issuing threats of violence should be ashamed of themselves. It is a strong symbol of the contempt they feel for their own communities and a powerful indicator that they do not care about protecting communities but only about exploiting them and securing power and grip for gangs and gangsters."
The Paramilitary Crime Task Force comprises the PSNI, HMRC and the National Crime Agency. It was established as part of the 2015 Stormont House deal on tacking paramilitary activity, criminality and organised crime.
DCI Cummings said the task force would continue to disrupt the criminal activity of organised criminals who badge themselves as paramilitaries.
“And we will continue to listen to the community and act on information provided. I would encourage anyone with information about any paramilitary organised crime to get in touch with police on 101.
“Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”