PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne.
NORTHERN Ireland Executive ministers and their officials have been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.
Members of the public were today urged to keep following the public health advice if they want to roll back more restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the Bank Holiday weekend got underway, First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill called on members of the public to continue to drive down the rate of infection by limiting their activities in public and acting sensibly.
First Minister Foster told the Executive's daily press conference, where they were joined by the PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne: “In recent days, this Executive, guided by the scientific and medical advice, has begun to relax restrictions that we had no choice but to impose. Restoring those liberties in the face of a deadly virus has been hard won. We can win back even more if everyone remains patient, remains disciplined and remains focused on controlling the rate of infection.
"In the absence of a vaccine, the threat from the virus is no less than it was when we had to impose lockdown. Covid-19 is still lurking. It thrives when people become complacent. It spreads when people become blasé about public health advice and it kills when people start acting as if the threat is no longer with us.”
Deputy First Minister O'Neill added: “We have said before that the Coronavirus battle is going to be a partnership effectively between this Executive and our citizens. Our success will depend on everyone being sensible, thinking about others and respecting the social distancing and hygiene advice which is so critical in keeping the spread of the virus low. We have said that there is no relaxation of any measure that is not without risk.
"That is why our approach is cautious and incremental and why the actions of the public are so important. We do not want to be in the position of having to reimpose any restrictions. The best we can do to keep moving forward and the best way we can continue to recover is to follow the regulations that are in place. Keep two metres away from those who are not part of your household. Keep washing your hands and observing good hygiene."
Meanwhile, landlords and tenants were urged today by the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to work together throughout the Covid-19 emergency and beyond.
Expressing her thanks to the vast majority of landlords, who have acted responsibly during this time, the Minister noted there had been reports on social media of some landlords issuing threatening letters to tenants.
Reminding the sector of the guidance and legislation in place, Minister Hargey said: “At this time of a public health emergency, it is vitally important that those who live in privately rented homes have the security of a roof over their heads.
“I have put in place legislation to ensure private tenants are protected from eviction during this Covid emergency. This important piece of legislation requires landlords to give 12 weeks’ Notice To Quit to their tenants, thus removing the threat of eviction at a time when people are being urged to stay at home as much as possible.”
Support is available for tenants struggling to pay their rent through loss of employment.
Buy-to-let landlords can also avail of a mortgage holiday.
The Minister added: “Guidance issued by my Department asks landlords to work with their tenants to plan ahead for the next few months. This could include establishing affordable repayment plans, taking into consideration tenants' individual circumstances, at the end of any mortgage holiday period.
"The Lord Chief Justice has issued guidance stating that when dealing with possession proceedings, judges shall take into account all circumstances, including the guidelines issued by the Department for Communities during this period of public health emergency. The legislation I have introduced combined with the guidance issued gives a clear message to the sector for the need for co-operation and good communication throughout this crisis.
“I am pleased so many landlords have worked with their tenants during these difficult times for all, but I am aware of a small minority who are ignoring the law and have blatantly stepped outside the guidance. This bullying behaviour is unacceptable and must stop.
"I would remind tenants and landlords that no one can be removed from their home without a court order. In these cases I would urge tenants to contact Housing Rights for help and advice. My department funds this excellent service to ensure people have access to expert housing advice.”