06/03/2020

PSNI Chief Gives Current Position On Covid-19

Police have outlined their current strategy to manage the Covid-19 outbreak.

Chief Superintendent Sam Donaldson issued a statement following calls for officers to have the same powers as those in England and Wales, including the ability to detain people suspected of having contracted the virus who are unwilling to self-quarantine.

The statement comes off the back of a policing board meeting at which Chief Superintendent Simon Byrne addressed the measures available to officers elsewhere in the UK. The PSNI say they are working with their partners in Government and the Public Health Agency to manage the response.

CS Donaldson said: "We are working with our partners across Government to support the response to Covid-19 Coronavirus. This is a rapidly developing situation and we continue to take a lead from the Government and our Public Health partners.

"In answering a number of questions on Covid-19 at the Policing Board yesterday, the Chief Constable talked about powers available to police officers in England and Wales that could be used if required to support public health agencies to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

"Similar powers are currently not available in Northern Ireland. Discussions are ongoing with the Government officials in relation to what may be required of policing in Northern Ireland."
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Meanwhile, UUP Justice spokesperson Doug Beattie said Northern Ireland must have the same powers as the rest of the United Kingdom.

The upper Bann MLA said: "This would relate to a situation whereby a person suspected of having coronavirus refused to follow the instructions of the Public Health Agency. This is a matter of public safety.

"We cannot have these powers in one part of the United Kingdom and not another. Indeed I would be very surprised if the Irish Republic is not thinking along very similar lines."

At present, three people have been confirmed as having contracted the virus in Northern Ireland.

The cases are unconnected and are all related to separate travel to northern Italy, where the outbreak has taken hold.

The Public Health Agency said a total of 186 people have now been tested.

Across the border, seven new cases have emerged in the Republic of Ireland, bringing their total to 13.

Four of the new cases are males who had recently returned from northern Italy, while two cases are women who are believed to have been in close contact with someone who had the virus.

Another is understood to have contracted Covid-19 in Cork City.

Elsewhere in the UK, cases have risen to 163.

The figure marks a jump of 48 since Thursday.

Two people have died from the virus in the UK, a woman in her 70s and a man in his 80s, who are both reported to have had underlying health issues.



(JG/CM)

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