Darren Beattie


Darren Beattie


STOP gambling with people's lives. That is the strongly-worded message to anyone who is breaching lockdown and social distancing rules from Dr Paul McGlinchey, a consultant cardiologist at the Western Trust.

The recent glorious weather we have been enjoying appears to have coincided with a heavier flow of traffic on our roads and there have been disturbing reports of families hosting barbecues and parties with people outside of their home over the weekend, despite the fact strict lockdown measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 are still in place.

Omagh town councillor, Stephen Donnelly, felt the need to make an appeal urging people to stop making unnecessary visits to local banks, while on social media there have been claims that parents are grocery shopping with their children.

Over 50 notices have been handed out by police to people in the Fermanagh and Omagh policing area to people who have flouted lockdown restrictions.

According to statistics released by the PSNI, a total of 58 notices have been issued during the period between March 30 and April 24 to those who have broken restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Of these, 29 were Penalty Notices for Disorder (PND) - a fine - and 29 were Community Resolution Notices (CRN).

Dr McGlinchey said it is 'very clear' people are growing complacent in the battle against coronavirus and anyone acting 'selfishly' by failing to adhere to government rules was putting people's lives at risk.

"I travel the road from Omagh to Derry three times a week and there is noticeably more traffic, particularly from the middle of last week," Dr McGlinchey told the Tyrone Constitution.

"I think people are taking their own decisions in relaxing social distancing and that's totally at odds to what the scientific advice is and the advice from government.

"I'm not sure what right people have in becoming an expert. What they are doing is risking prolongation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They are acting irresponsibly and immorally. They are risking lives because there is a lockdown in place."

Dr McGlinchey warned that although the majority of people were complying with restrictions, the actions of the minority would have 'detrimental effects on society'.

"The public in the main have been brilliant and as someone who works in the health service, that has been a great source of encouragement for us and the work that we do.

"The public displays of appreciation - the demonstrations outside Omagh Hospital and the South West Acute Hospital, the road signs thanking NHS workers - have been great.

"But to hear stories of people flaunting these rules because they are feeling bored, I just think it's really selfish.

"They are risking having more people affected with coronavirus and the subsequent mortality associated with that.

"People should not be making their own decisions about relaxing social distances and social isolation or any part of government policy.

"I can't understand why some people think their rights and priorities outweigh the rights of everyone else."
Any relaxation of the rules will be determined by the government and would be a gradual process, said Dr McGlinchey.

"You should only be in the company of others if there is an essential need for it. By mingling, you are promoting the spread of coronavirus and it only prolongs the changes we have had to endure within our society and health service."

At Stormont's COVID-19 press conference on Monday, First Minister Arlene Foster said now is not the time for the government, business and the public to gamble with people's lives.

"Please remain at home as much as possible," she added "Please stay at home and please save lives."

Mrs Foster echoed Prime Minister Boris Johnson's comments that we are "at a moment of great risk".

The Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said that people in Northern Ireland must learn to live with radical changes to daily life until a vaccine is developed.

"It was disappointing to hear reports from some people who seem to have decided for themselves that it's time to relax the restrictions that are in place to save lives.

"That kind of attitude is wrong; it's reckless and it's endangering lives," she added.

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