People are deeply divided over plans to remove Covid restrictions, with some supporting the rules staying in place and others believing the time has come for a return to normality.
Conflicting opinions were found in Londonderry city
centre, even among people who had lost friends and family to the virus.
Among this number was Charlie Harkin, whose wife of 54 years died of Covid-19 in September.
“I think that we should still be very careful. We’re going to have to be for a long time. I know I will. I’ll not be going into crowds anyway,” he said.
“I think they’ve moved a bit too soon. If they choose to remove masks, I’ll still be wearing mine. I hope they don’t.
“I think that in shopping areas with crowds, you should have to wear one.
“I can’t understand these people who are anti-vaxxers. Families even disagree on it now.
“My father used to say, ‘There are two things you never fall out about, and that’s politics and religion’, but I think this Covid is another one.”
Natalie Mullan believed it was time to lift the restrictions, saying that people have to build up an immunity to the virus at some point “or it’s going to be a lifetime pandemic”.
“I hate wearing a mask. I‘ve never had the virus. I’ve had close friends who had it and lost a family member to it, so we know it is serious,” she added.
“We know now that there is medication out there that’s helping it, so hopefully the future is bright again.”
Gerard McNally said he would like to see some restrictions stay in place in the interests of public safety, particularly in nightclubs.
But as far as masks are concerned, he believes it should be down to personal choice.
“Older ones in my family who got Covid had a harder time, but those the likes of my age were fine. I think that, moving forward, we should just be cautious,” he said.
Chloe Whoriskey, meanwhile, was undecided. “Removing the need for masks is doable — sure people take them off anyway,” she told this newspaper.
“There are people with breathing problems too [who don’t wear them] — those who are asthmatic and older people.
“People should just wash their hands.
“I’ve had Covid twice. I was doing everything — wearing a mask, washing my hands. It didn’t affect me. My wee girl still went to school.
“I just think that it’s not going anywhere and we have to get used to it.”
Earlier this week, the Executive announced a relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions introduced in December to combat the Omicron variant.
The decision came after the number of new cases fell.
Appearing in Derry on Thursday, First Minister Paul Givan said the virus did not have the impact on the health service that was initially feared, which had afforded the Executive room to manoeuvre in terms of lifting restrictions.
Among the change in rules, proof of Covid status will no longer be legally required for entry to bars, restaurants or cinemas from 12pm on Wednesday.
However the Executive has said their continued use will be “strongly encouraged”.
The rule of six people per table in hospitality venues ended from midday yesterday.
Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen from Wednesday, with dancing and indoor events at which people are not seated permitted again.
Coronavirus passports will remain in use for access to nightclubs, as well as for indoor unseated and partially seated events with 500 or more people in attendance.
The Executive will meet to review all remaining restrictions on February 10, including the requirement to wear masks.