People urged not to attend courts from today amid Coronavirus outbreak

Q radio news

Members of the public and legal professionals should not attend court from today onwards amid the Coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Justice say while names may appear on the court list, the default position is that their case will be adjourned without them needing to attend. 

A spokesperson for the courts service said last night "The Lord Chief Justice announced yesterday that with effect from tomorrow (Thursday 26 March 2020) all court business will be consolidated in the following courthouses:  the Royal Courts of Justice, Laganside Courts, Craigavon, Dungannon and Londonderry. 

"Until further notice only urgent matters will be heard and these are likely to be undertaken remotely using live link, telephone, Sightlink, Zoom or BTMeetme etc."


It came as the Chief Medical Officer warned that many thousands of people may already have coronavirus in Northern Ireland.

Testing will increase to more than 1,000 a day by next week - and that will help give a better idea of the infection's spread, Dr Michael McBride added.

Around 40,000 of the most vulnerable are to be written to by their GPs, urging them to be extra careful and stay at home.

Dr McBride said: "At this point in time, I suspect there are many thousands of individual cases in Northern Ireland."

He reiterated the importance of social distancing and good hand hygiene.

Three deaths linked to the virus have been recorded since Tuesday, the Public Health Agency (PHA) said. Another 37 people tested positive.

It brings to seven the total number of deaths from the outbreak. In the Republic of Ireland nine people have died. 

Some workers at the Moy Park poultry producer in Northern Ireland walked out for a period on Wednesday because they hold safety concerns linked to Covid-19 and social distancing.

The company said it was taking their welfare seriously.

Stormont's first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O'Neill called on non-essential employers to close - and if they had to remain open, to take steps to ensure staff safety.

Mrs O'Neill said she had seen vans full of men going to work on Wednesday.

She said: "That is not acceptable, that is not safe so that needs to be stopped."

Mrs Foster said those working in food production were extremely valued and urged their employers to look after them.

She added: "We need them to make sure that their employees are safe, not only safe but that they feel valued.

"We want them to continue to be able to provide food in this very difficult time."

Health Minister Robin Swann predicted there would be many more deaths.

He said: "That is the reality that is haunting us all during every waking hour, but we can reduce that death toll."

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