"As Easter quickly draws closer, we become acutely aware of the impact COVID-19 is having on family life, the restrictions that have been put on our movements and the sacrifices we are all making for each other.
"In normal times, families would of course enjoy Easter together, spending time outdoors, time with each other, time away from work and time reflecting.
"In the past week, we have seen steady numbers of visitors to our forests, country parks, beaches, nature reserves and parks, despite the fact that restrictions have been places on public access to our beauty spots.
"Everyone has the same idea – it will be safe outside.
"But it quickly becomes unsafe when crowds of people descend on our beautiful countryside and social distancing becomes impossible.
"This Easter must be different. We must stay apart and stay at home. There can be no better way to show you care, than to protect each other in this way.
"Easter Monday is traditionally the busiest day of the year for our forest and country parks, but this year, I’m asking you all – find alternative things to do at home with your families, do fun things to entertain the kids in your house or garden. Do not visit our forests and country parks, beaches or beauty spots.
"In the face of the alternative, this is a sacrifice we must all make. Our doctors and nurses are giving everything they have to win this battle, we must also give back as much as we can.
"Let’s not lose our nerve now. Now is not the time to reverse all of our good work. Now is the time to make it count.
"And with the weather getting better, Easter around the corner and children out of school, there are more children at home and on the farm. We all know that a farm can be a curious place for children, but it isn’t a playground.
"They must be supervised at all times and I’d like to urge farm families to take some time to put safety measures in place. All it takes is one small mistake to become a tragedy.
"Know where children are at all times and keep them away from danger.
"And this Easter, those children will be getting lots of Easter Eggs - which means lots of waste plastic and cardboard boxes.
"Please recycle or dispose of your waste properly. Our public health services are already under pressure.
"If you’re planning to do a bit of gardening this weekend or have a clear out - think twice before you do.
"With all the council Household Waste Recycling Centres closed we’ve already got people fly-tipping and adding to the growing burden on our key waste sector workers. You can play your part and help ease the burden by putting the right waste in the right place. It’s that simple.
"A final note about food supply. I am heartened to see our farming sector so appreciated in the media, on social media and amongst the public. Their support, contribution and efforts in the fight against COVID-19 are clear for all to see. I’d like to ask everyone to support them back – both now, and beyond the current crisis. Behind every piece of beef, lamb, chicken or vegetable you see on the shelves, is a hard-working, dedicated farm family, producing high-quality products. Without them, we simply would not have food on our tables. So please buy local, support your local farmer and your rural community."
Notes to editors:
- Health advice and information on government services is available at: www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus and www.nidirect.gov.uk/coronavirus
- All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.
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