Strict new powers to combat the spread of coronavirus are to come into force across Northern Ireland from 11pm tonight.
The regulations will prohibit anyone from leaving home without a reasonable excuse and compel the closure of certain premises.
The Northern Ireland Executive agreed the powers in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Penalties, ranging from fixed penalty notices to fines of up to £5,000, are being introduced as enforcement.
The powers also ban gatherings of more than two people.
The new Executive powers include:
• The power to close premises.
• Prohibit anyone from leaving home without reasonable excuse.
• Gatherings of more than two people are banned.
• Penalties ranging from fixed penalty notices to fines of up to £5,000 for non-compliance.
These powers will come into effect from 11pm.
REASONABLE EXCUSE FOR LEAVING HOME:
•To obtain food and medical supplies.
• exercise either alone or with other members of household.
• seek medical assistance.
• provide care to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance.
• donate blood.
• travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living.
• to attend a funeral of a family member.
RESTRICTIONS ON GATHERINGS
No person may participate in a gathering in a public place of more than two people except—
• where all the persons in the gathering are members of the same household.
• where the gathering is essential for work purposes.
• to attend a funeral.
The Executive has also agreed that:
• Anyone who can work from home must do so and employers must facilitate where feasible.
• No employer should compel an employee to come to work if it is feasible to work from home.
• Every employer must take all reasonable steps to safeguard the health of employees, whether working from home or in the workplace.
• Every employer must put into effect the guidance on social distancing issued by the Department for the Economy.
• Every employer has a legal duty to ensure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health of all employees.
• Where a business is failing to observe the Department for the Economy guidance and breaching the legal duty on health and safety, the statutory authorities will take robust action, which may include prosecution for criminal offences.
• Where necessary, The Executive Office will also use its power of direction to close or restrict businesses that do not ensure the safety of their employees.
A new forum will also be established to advise the Executive on essential and non-essential businesses and essential/key workers.
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