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Eilis O'Hanlon

Very welcome outbreak of common sense as majority do right thing to save lives

Eilis O'Hanlon


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A dog walker at the steps of a quiet St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh

A dog walker at the steps of a quiet St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh

A message of hope left on Portrush’s deserted East Strand

A message of hope left on Portrush’s deserted East Strand

A dog walker at the steps of a quiet St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh

There has never been an Easter Sunday quite like it. Cars would ordinarily have been nose-to-tail on all roads to the coast, and churches packed.

This year Northern Ireland felt eerily empty. Seaside resorts were like ghost towns.

That the beaches were largely deserted probably is not unrelated to the fact that the police increased the number of patrols and put up checkpoints to ensure that people stayed at home as the coronavirus crisis continues.

No one in their right mind wants to risk a fine of up to £5,000 just to spend a few hours out of the house, especially when all the shops are closed anyway.

The weather wasn't great, either. That surely helped put a lid on the annual exodus out of Belfast.

It was still a welcome outbreak of common sense that most people chose to stay at home over the weekend.

Inevitably, there will always be some idiots who think rules are for everybody else, not them, and went out anyway. What matters is that they are a pitiful minority.

Staying at home is not that hard to do after all, and, when it has been shown to have a dramatic effect on limiting the spread of the coronavirus, it would be reckless to do anything else

Most people in Northern Ireland have risen to the challenge of, well, doing nothing.

We might not like having to change our ways, but by and large we understand perfectly well why we are not allowed to go about our normal business, and have accepted the restrictions with good-humoured forbearance.

Staying at home is not that hard to do after all, and, when it has been shown to have a dramatic effect on limiting the spread of the coronavirus, it would be reckless to do anything else.

Whilst every life lost is a tragedy, Northern Ireland has suffered far fewer deaths per head of population than any other part of the UK, and, despite political disagreement over different approaches to tackling Covid-19 on either side of the border, has the exact same mortality rate as the Republic.

That could quickly change if people stopped respecting the ban on non-essential journeys.

The virus has not hit every area of Northern Ireland equally.

Urban areas with a larger population density have been more badly affected, and it would be deplorable if those who live in towns were responsible for the spread of coronavirus to other places, such as seaside resorts and beauty spots in the countryside which have, mercifully, escaped the worst, just so they could have a day out.

There is no room for complacency, though.

A sustained spell of good weather will sorely test people's patience with the lockdown.

Ironically, we are in the rare position in Northern Ireland of actually wanting and needing the summer to be a bit disappointing.

In the meantime it is worth giving credit where it's due. The vast majority of people generally do the right thing, when they know the reasons why.

Belfast Telegraph