Northern Ireland has now entered stricter Covid-19 restrictions as of 6pm on Friday
As Northern Ireland plunges into stricter Covid-19 restrictions, the Belfast Telegraph takes a look at why we should be optimistic about getting out of this deadly crisis.
The new normal is here to stay for the foreseeable future and many are worried about what lies ahead, but there will be a time when we will come out the other side.
The worldwide epidemic will not truly come to an end until a vaccine for the virus is found, however, there are signs that progress is being made.
It was announced on Friday that a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine candidate, based on inactivated coronavirus, is safe and elicits an antibody response.
The research was based on small early randomised clinical trials involving 640 participants.
Scientists were encouraged by what they found and said it justifies further investigation.
Meanwhile, the chair of the UK Vaccine task force, Kate Bingham, said there was a “slim chance” of a vaccine being ready before Christmas.
She added that she is “hopeful” of getting a trial date from an Oxford study, as well as the vaccine from Pfizer BionNTech, before the end of the year.
Ms Bingham added: “If everything works, yes it’s possible we could get a vaccine this year but it’s most likely that it’ll be next year.”
As lockdown took hold in March, we knew very little about the virus.
How do you get it? Will I die if I catch it? If I leave the house will I contract the virus?
These were questions everyone wanted to know the answer to as lockdown measures were rigidly adhered to by the public, but it’s been a long eight months and we know so much more.
We now know that children don’t contract the disease at the same rate as adults, allowing schools to reopen. However, they are still vulnerable.
It has also been discovered that close and prolonged contact with others increases your chances of catching the virus, especially indoors.
Those who contract Covid-19 can display no symptoms at all but can still pass it on to others.
While some of these points may seem obvious, it’s clear that scientists can use these new discoveries to help find a vaccine and fight back.
Steroids have proven to save lives and this discovery has been a significant breakthrough in the fight against coronavirus.
The UK’s Recovery trial showed the steroid dexamethasone cuts the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those on oxygen.
Further data also suggested that another steroid, hydrocortisone, is just as effective.
The drug does not work on milder cases but it is a cheap option which can be used all over the world.
Interferon beta is a protein the body makes to tackle inflammation and has been used as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Studies have suggested the treatment cuts the odds of a patient in hospital developing severe symptoms.
Blood plasma has also been taken from those who have recovered from Covid-19 and transfused to those seriously-ill patients.
It is currently being tested in the UK and is designed at giving struggling immune systems a helping hand.
Northern Ireland’s test and trace service has improved dramatically compared to when it was first introduced.
The number of positive tests has increased rapidly in recent weeks but that has allowed the Public Health Agency (PHA) to identify local spikes and attempt to stop the spread.
The PHA is currently recruiting to increase the test and trace service’s 151-strong workforce to help deal with the soaring number of cases.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland was also ahead of its UK counterparts in setting up the contact-tracing mobile app StopCOVID NI.
Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed that the app has been downloaded by almost 400,000 people, while 3,735 had received a notice to self-isolate.
While the test and trace system here has come under some criticism, it is yet another tool to fight back against the virus and get us on the path to recovery.
Northern Ireland may be in the midst of Covid-19’s second wave but other countries across the world have fared much better in the battle against the virus.
Uruguay, which has a population of 3.5m people, has had a total of 2,417 cases and 51 deaths since the outbreak began.
The comparably low numbers have been attributed to a large testing and contact tracing programme.
Elsewhere, New Zealand’s response to Covid has been lauded across the world with a current total of 1,880 cases and 25 deaths.
Both Australia and New Zealand are among the first countries in the Asia-Pacific region to loosen restrictions on international travel since the outbreak.
With tight limitations in place, such as quarantining, both countries are making sure the virus does not spike with the easing of measures.
These countries must be used as an example of how to halt the virus and get us all back to normality.