Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Justice Minister Naomi Long have come together to urge the public to act responsibly and consider if their journey is essential.
In a joint statement, Minister Long and Minister Mallon call for common sense and a collective effort to defeat Covid-19.
The Ministers were speaking following a significant increase in the numbers of people visiting parks, beaches and other locations in recent days.
Minister Mallon said: “I understand that lock down isn’t easy – especially with the spell of good weather we have been enjoying. It is very tempting to want to meet up with lots of friends and family and travel to local beauty spots either by car or public transport for a day out. However, the Coronavirus is still with us and the need to restrict our travel, both on our roads and on public transport, remains to prevent it spreading.
“I know for many of us staying apart from the people we love and care about goes against everything we know. I would encourage everyone to continue to follow the health advice, stay at home unless making an essential journey and limit contact with other people when outdoors to six people, however tempting it may be to go back to our normal ways.
“It is really worrying to learn of gatherings of young people on our rail services in recent days. The public health message is clear, social distancing must be practised by all individuals and each of us have a personal responsibility. The position remains clear that travel on our public transport network is for essential journeys only. Given the limited numbers of trains and buses operated by Translink, managing capacity for social distancing can be difficult and the actions of some members of the public during recent days has severely undermined this.
“I would once again urge the public before travelling to consider if their journey is essential. If we don’t use common sense and follow the guidance, we are putting ourselves, our families and those around us at risk. This is not over and we must continue to work together while standing apart to help save lives, protect our NHS and get us back onto the road to recovery faster and safer.”
Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “The easing of restrictions has been accompanied by absolutely glorious weather. It feels like the summer is well and truly here and I can fully understand the temptation to do the things we would normally do with family and friends on a warm summer’s day.
“But the harsh truth is that this is a summer like no other and we cannot lose sight of the fact that the vicious and invisible enemy that is Covid-19 is still amongst us.
“A lot of us will have personal decisions to make in order to stay safe and common sense around social distancing must be at the heart of everything we do. While there is no law against travelling to beauty spots to exercise and enjoy our magnificent scenery, I would urge anyone who does so to act responsibly when they get there. For example, if you arrive and it is clear that social distancing will not be possible because of the large volume of people already there, perhaps think about returning another time or going to another location.
“As time passes and we begin to emerge from lockdown it is easy to forget why restrictions were introduced in the first place. I want to put on record once again my support for the police, who have been doing an excellent job when it comes to engaging, explaining and encouraging the public to abide by the legislation. Enforcement has always been a last resort and officers should not be subject to threat or violence for simply doing their job and keeping people safe.
“Just because we cannot see Coronavirus doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious threat to our health and I would ask everyone to play their part in helping to defeat it. The vast majority of people have listened and have done the right thing and now is not the time for complacency.”