October 25, 2020

Coronavirus: New regulations come into force

New powers to enforce guidelines on people staying at home and businesses staying closed have come into force in Northern Ireland.

The regulations were published by the NI Executive on Saturday.

They include the ability to force businesses to shut and crack down on people who leave their homes without a “reasonable excuse”.

Penalties, ranging from fixed penalty notices to fines of up to £5,000, are being introduced as enforcement.

The maximum fine will be reserved for businesses but people could face a maximum fine of £960 if they do not comply.

Off licences have also been added to the list of essential businesses and can now stay open.

The new regulations bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

The regulations say that reasonable excuses to leave the home include to obtain necessities, such as food and medicine; exercise; to seek medical help; to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person; to donate blood; and to travel for work, where it is not possible for that person to work from home.

These are consistent with previously announced guidelines, with Justice Minister Naomi Long saying the new regulations are “not a new direction in terms of what people should and shouldn’t do”.

However, she told BBC 5Live they do give the police and other bodies the power “to enforce where people do not comply with that voluntarily”.

She added that the executive had to bring in the regulations “in order for us to use the powers which were legislated for earlier in the week”.

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