LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus NI - DUP MP suggests PSNI could man ‘hard border’ to stop spread of Covid variants - 10 year prison sentences for people who lie on passenger locator forms - PSNI officers at bookmakers commemoration ‘did not intend to cause offence’

DUP MP, Carla Lockhart, has suggested deploying the PSNI to man the “hard border” in a similar fashion to that of their Republic of Ireland counterparts, the Garda Síochána.

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Garda at a checkpoint on the Irish border between Emyvale and Aughnacloy. A number of Garda checkpoints have been operating along the border on Monday to enforce the new Covid-19 regulations. Picture date: Monday February 8, 2021. People living in Northern Ireland who cross the Irish border without a reasonable excuse face a 100 euro fine from today.

LIVE UPDATES: COVID-19 NI - DUP MP suggests sending PSNI to man ‘hard border’ to stop spread of variants

Last updated: Tuesday, 09 February, 2021, 14:58

  • DUP MP suggests sending PSNI to man ‘hard border’ to stop spread of variants
  • Up to 10 years in prison for anyone found to be lying on passenger locator forms
  • New measures are response of government to spread of new variants 
  • Police officers at bookmakers commemoration ‘did not intend to cause offence’
  • Travellers face £1,750 bill for quarantine hotels

DUP MP suggests PSNI could man ‘hard border’ to stop spread of Covid variants - 10 year prison sentences for people who lie on passenger locator forms

DUP MP Carla Lockhart.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart (Upper Bann) accused the Irish Government of being “irresponsible” in not sharing arrivals data with the UK.

She told the Commons: “There will be significant concern amongst the population of Northern Ireland that entry into the UK could continue through Dublin. This puts people in my constituency at additional risk of new variants.

“Does (Matt Hancock) agree that this is not behaviour becoming of a good neighbour, in fact it is quite shameful and irresponsible for the government in the Irish Republic to refuse to share arrivals data with the UK?

“Furthermore if this continues, does he agree that the hard border currently being enforced by the Irish Republic restricting travel from North to South will also have to be enforced by the PSNI to stop entrants into Northern Ireland from across the border to protect the UK?”

Mr Hancock responded: “No, I don’t agree with (Ms Lockhart) and I want to reassure every one of her constituents and all citizens across Northern Ireland that we’re working very closely with the government in Dublin to ensure that data is shared properly.

“And that both governments have an appropriate system to safeguard our borders against the challenges that we face and to allow for the free travel within the common travel area.”

10 additional Covid related deaths in 24 hours

A further 10 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

Department of Health figures on Tuesday also notified another 275 new cases of the virus.

There are 579 patients in hospital with Covid-19, including 60 in intensive care.

Police officers at bookmakers commemoration ‘did not intend to cause offence’

Young officers who intervened following the Sean Graham bookmakers shootings commemoration did not intend to cause offence, the Police Federation in Northern Ireland said - writes Michael McHugh, PA.

One was suspended and another repositioned following Friday’s incident in Belfast’s Ormeau Road.

Mass gatherings are banned to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Federation chair Mark Lindsay said the police had no idea of the sensitivities involved and had asked advice from more senior colleagues after noticing a crowd while driving by.

He said: “These two officers under no circumstances went there to cause any offence or any hurt.

“They were simply unaware of it.”

Mark Sykes, who was shot several times in the 1992 loyalist massacre that claimed the lives of five people, was handcuffed and arrested in chaotic scenes posted on social media.

Mr Lindsay told the BBC’s Nolan Show the officers are from different community backgrounds.

“There is almost an innocence in that that actually is the younger generation who, whilst I accept as police officers should be aware of these sensitivities, these people had no idea what was happening there so their intention was not to cause any offence.”

He said they were driving past and saw the crowd.

When they stopped, they were totally unaware of the context.

Mr Lindsay said others in the force did know of that context and that raised its own questions.

When they asked for advice from senior colleagues about how to deal with the situation, they were told to sit back and engage with the organiser once the event was over.

Mr Lindsay added: “They did not walk into the middle of the event, they waited until the event was over and they identified someone they thought may have been the organiser, whenever all the equipment was being put away into a van, and that is whenever this has gone wrong.”

Sinn Fein and the DUP are at loggerheads over the policing of the commemoration and Chief Constable Simon Byrne’s high-profile intervention in the days after it.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has highlighted “unprecedented anger” over the arrest of Mr Sykes.

First Minister Arlene Foster has said the events had all the hallmarks of trial by social media while other Democratic Unionists believe the officers on the ground have been “scapegoated”.

The Police Ombudsman is investigating.

Up to 10 years in prison for anyone found to be lying on passenger locator forms

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced new fines for international arrivals who fail to take Covid-19 tests, adding those who lie on their passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in jail.

He told the Commons: “People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk.

“Passenger carriers will have a duty in law to make sure that passengers have signed up for these new arrangements before they travel, and will be fined if they don’t, and we will be putting in place tough fines for people who don’t comply.

“This includes a £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test, a £2,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test, as well as automatically extending their quarantine period to 14 days, and a £5,000 fixed penalty notice – rising to £10,000 – for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.”

He added: “Anyone who lies on the passenger locator form and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on the red list in the 10 days before arrival here will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.”

Mr Hancock said the measures will be put into law this week and more resources will be available to enforce them, adding: “I make no apologies for the strength of these measures because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we’ve faced as a nation.”

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