By David Young, PA
The Health Minister has urged people not to let frustrations over ongoing lockdown restrictions affect their observance of them.
Robin Swann pleaded with the public to stick with the measures over the Easter holiday weekend.
Northern Ireland took a few gradual steps out of lockdown on Thursday, with some limited relaxations on some outdoor gatherings and activities, but widespread restrictions on society remain in place.
A series of further steps are scheduled for April 12, including the full resumption of classroom learning in schools.
The police also issued a message today asking people to continue to respect the Covid-19 rules over the holiday period.
(Health Minister Robin Swann's Easter appeal)
Mr Swann said: “Once again, we are facing a holiday weekend with restrictions on our lives.
“I totally understand the widespread frustration and indeed share it. But I would appeal to people not to let their frustrations affect their judgment. These restrictions are in place to protect us from a vicious virus that has brought great tragedy to so many families.
“When we are following them, we are helping keep ourselves and others safe – and helping our community get to a better place.
“We are continuing to make good progress. The statistics on Covid-19 have been moving steadily in the right direction and more than three-quarters of a million people in Northern Ireland have received their first vaccine dose.
“We are on a pathway towards gradually easing restrictions. The return of schools and expansion of outdoor activities are the first careful steps on this route map.
“Some regulations have been eased this week and more welcome decisions will steadily follow if we can keep Covid-19 infections down.”
Mr Swann said it remained important to “follow the basics”.
“That includes maintaining social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing hands frequently and well. Stay at home as much as possible and stay local when you are enjoying the great outdoors. Avoid crowded places, especially where it would be hard to keep your distance from others.
“Make fresh air your friend this Easter weekend – outdoors is much safer than indoors. Please, please don’t mix indoors with people from other households.”
(PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd)
Striking a similar tone, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “We understand that people may be frustrated and are keen to return to normal but the fact remains that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and the choices we make have the potential to influence the road map out of the current lockdown.
“Stay at home remains the advice from the Department of Health.
“If you have reasonable excuse to travel, please take extra care on the roads.”
He made clear that travelling to holiday accommodation does not constitute a “reasonable excuse” for leaving home.
“It is still Easter and everyone can still celebrate in a safe and slightly different way,” he added.