More than 100 people have been fined for breaking coronavirus regulations by attending New Year’s Eve house parties in Northern Ireland.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said on Friday that 126 people had been fined £200 each for attending house parties and 34 prohibition notices had been issued, also in respect of house parties.
Two penalty notices were issued to businesses which continued to operate in breach of the regulations.
Assistant chief constable Mark McEwan said that despite the coronavirus restrictions in place, New Year’s Eve had been a “really busy night” for the police. The PSNI received 1,004 calls between 8pm on Thursday and 8am Friday.
“Of particular concern was the number of domestic abuse incidents and, in the last 24 hours, we received reports of 86 incidents of domestic abuse from homes across Northern Ireland,” he said. “As a result of this, police made 38 arrests.”
A strict, six-week lockdown began in the North on St Stephen’s Day, with hospitality businesses open for takeaway service only and a “curfew” in place until January 2nd barring any indoor or outdoor gatherings between 8pm and 6am.
The assistant chief constable said it was “really disappointing that despite the health crisis due to the deadly virus, there were still people last night who deliberately decided to breach the regulations and put themselves and others at risk”.
However, he said the “vast majority” of people had behaved responsibly. And he added that it is important people take the time to understand what is and is not permitted under the new regulations, advice by way of guidance and to take responsibility .
Where people do not follow the regulations, he said, police would first engage and explain the guidance and the law and encourage them to “do the right thing”.
“However, where we are left with no choice but to enforce, we will take this measure in order to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities and help protect our NHS,” he said.
On New Year’s Eve Minister of Health Robin Swann warned people against holding house parties, saying that the number of positive cases are a “stark reminder” that Covid-19 “thrives in company”.
The number of cases has been rising significantly in recent days, with 1,929 people testing positive in the 24 hours to Thursday and a further 11 deaths.
The North’s Department of Health did not publish daily coronavirus statistics on New Year’s Day, but said its Covid-19 data dashboard would be updated on Saturday.