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Editor's Viewpoint

Common sense helped dramatically curtail spread of Covid-19, and is key as restrictions eased

Editor's Viewpoint


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Shops have already reopened in Northern Ireland, with social distancing measures in place (Brian Lawless/PA)

Shops have already reopened in Northern Ireland, with social distancing measures in place (Brian Lawless/PA)

PA

Shops have already reopened in Northern Ireland, with social distancing measures in place (Brian Lawless/PA)

When the NI Executive launched its Pathway to Recovery for the economy on May 12, no dates were included in the document, with the politicians saying they would be guided by the science as to when relaxation of lockdown rules could take place in certain sectors.

Whatever timetable they had in mind, it now appears that pathway is much shorter than most people imagined. Undoubtedly a major part of the reason has been the common sense of the public which has helped to dramatically curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

However, it would not seem too much of a stretch of imagination to suggest that strong lobbying from various sectors of the economy has also hastened the relaxations. Essentially, the new normal will be largely in place by the end of August, while earlier it had been anticipated that some sectors would not be functioning until possibly December.

The move to reduce social distancing from two metres to one from Monday carries an obviously greater risk of infection being spread. It is not only the distance involved, but also the time spent in the company of another person at that distance which multiplies the risk factor.

The timing of the reopening of some facilities - for example betting shops, tattoo parlours, spas and massage and therapy facilities coming at least 10 days earlier than reopening libraries - seems a trifle strange, although the economic benefit of the commercial premises is obvious.

It would be churlish not to congratulate the Executive for its determination to get the economy functioning again to some extent as quickly as possible. The politicians clearly have listened to business interests and put the ball in their court.

It must also be recognised that the relaxation of the rules is accompanied by a health warning. Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill was clear that action would be taken if there was any indication that infections were spiking again, especially as we head towards the winter months, which is always a danger period, pandemic or no pandemic.

The public and the business owners must continue to show the common sense and adherence to basic hygiene rules which have worked so far in containing the virus. And the business community must do all in its power to restore confidence among the public that it is safe to go out again.

Belfast Telegraph