Northern Ireland is forcing employers to have staff work from home if feasible. Image by REUTERS PHOTO

Health

N.Ireland virus measures toughest in UK

2020-03-30 10:25:28

Northern Ireland will introduce “sweeping new powers” to combat the spread of coronavirus on Saturday, with many restrictions tougher than the rest of the United Kingdom.

The British region will prohibit anyone from leaving home without reasonable excuse, compel certain premises to shut and use its power of direction to close or restrict businesses that do not ensure employees’ safety, its devolved government said.

The number of coronavirus deaths in Northern Ireland has risen by two to a total of 15, while 324 people have tested positive.

Ireland, which shares an open border with Northern Ireland, has so far reported 2,415 cases and 34 deaths. It has ordered citizens to stay home until April 12, with most only able to leave to shop for groceries and for brief exercise.

The measures in Northern Ireland are tougher on employers than in the rest of the UK, with the instruction that anyone who can work from home must work from home, and companies cannot compel an employee to come to work if it is feasible to work from home.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the devolved government was asking the people of Northern Ireland to make fundamental changes to how they lived their lives.

“These are extraordinary powers for any Government to have to introduce, but we are living in extraordinary times,” she said.

The Belfast executive said it would introduce penalties ranging from a fixed penalty notice to fines of up to 5,000 pounds to enforce the new powers.