Northern Ireland’s Minister of Health struck licensed premises that violated Covid-19 guidelines.
There has been a “blatant disregard” of Covid-19 regulations by some in the hospitality industry, Robin Swann said.
“If you break the rules, you have to suffer the consequences,” he told a press conference in Stormont.
He said he will propose to the executive ministers to strengthen the legislation to punish these premises.
Some pubs, hotels, restaurants and cafes were cleared to open in July, but had to follow published industry guidelines that set operating conditions.
Mr Swann said he had heard “disturbing reports” from some members of the public and staff at some companies about the violation of the guidelines.
He said he would ask the executive to “prioritize” legislation to deal with the issue.
“The regulations and recommendations we worked on with Hospitality Ulster… were very clear as to how everything should play out,” he said.
“We worked with these sectors on how they could regulate themselves; it wasn’t about letting go, but what we are seeing now is the blatant disregard for guidelines issued by their own industry.
The minister said the executive would review Hospitality Ulster’s recommendations regarding licensing laws.
Covid R number
The Minister made his comments as the latest Covid-19 (R) breeding number in Northern Ireland was found to be between 1.0 and 1.6.
The health ministry said the average number of new tests per day over the past seven days was 56.3.
This shows a further increase in transmission last week, according to the department.
However, he added that the increase was “likely to be heavily influenced by an outbreak at a meat factory in central and eastern Antrim.”
In the Republic of Ireland, 93 new cases of Covid-19 were reported Thursday, but no other deaths linked to Covid. That brings the total number of confirmed cases since the start of the epidemic to 28,453, while there have been 1,777 deaths associated with the virus.
Of the newly reported cases, 70% are in people under the age of 45.
‘To stay together’
Mr Swann said during the briefing that more clusters and outbreaks in NI hospitals “are inevitable,” warning that there could be a difficult winter ahead.
“We have to stay together as a society,” he said.
Northern Ireland’s chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young has warned that an increase in testing was only a “partial explanation” for the increase in the number of positive cases.
“The virus is spreading and is all over Northern Ireland,” he said at the press conference.
Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said more people in Northern Ireland would be admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and eventually die unless the spread of the virus was curbed.
Since many of the new confirmed cases of the virus are among young people, he appealed to this generation: “Please do not put your parents and grandparents at risk.”
Earlier Thursday, an official investigation suggested that levels of concern over Covid-19 appear to be declining in Northern Ireland.
The survey by the statistical agency Nisra is based on 1,785 interviews conducted between April 21 and July 23, 2020.
Overall, just over seven in ten (72%) said they were “very” or “somewhat worried” about the effect of the virus on their lives.
The figure is higher from April to May than it was in the last part of the survey.
The public survey found 77% were worried from April 20 to May 31. This percentage fell to 67% between June 1 and July 23.
There were higher levels of worry among people with long-standing illness, with more than three-quarters saying they were worried.
Woe at home school
In the Nisra survey, nearly two-thirds of those who home-schooled their children said they were confident in their ability to do so, but just over a quarter said they were not.
And most thought their children were still learning (79%), while just over one in ten (12%) disagreed.
About a third of people (32%) expect their financial situation to deteriorate in the next 12 months, while 13% expect it to improve. Just over half (55%) think it will stay the same.
These perceptions vary by age group, with almost 40% of 45-64 year olds expecting their financial situation to deteriorate a little or a lot more next year.
The majority of people aged 65 and over (71%) expect their financial situation to stay the same over the next twelve months.
Declining life satisfaction
People rated their life satisfaction as statistically significantly lower (7.54) compared to Nisra’s figures for 2018-2019 (7.89).
Feelings of satisfaction with life, what you do for a living is “worthwhile” and “happiness” were significantly higher among those aged 65 and over than among other age groups.
But no significant difference was observed between people aged 16 to 44 and 45 to 64 for these measures.
Likewise, feelings of anxiety among those aged 65 and older were significantly lower than among those aged 45 to 64.
The vast majority of people (80%) said they had avoided contact with the elderly or other vulnerable people in the seven days before the interview due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
This figure has dropped over time – around nine in 10 people interviewed between April 20 and May 17, 2020 said they had avoided contact with the elderly or vulnerable in the seven days before the interview due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
This decreased to 72% in the two week period after June 15, 2020.