From the start of this pandemic, my priority as Joint Head of government in the north has been to save lives, ease the pressure on our health service and provide support for workers and their families impacted by the virus.
That has guided me from the outset. And in all decisions taken I have been guided by the expert medical and scientific advice provided to us.
That remained the case this week, and during the many Executive meetings I chaired, as I sought to reach consensus and we tried to reach agreement on the way forward.
Reaching collective agreement in a five-party Executive, where there can be a divergence of views, is never easy.
However, these are unprecedented and challenging times and difficult decisions must be made.
I have never shied away from making those hard decisions and do not intend to start now when the situation facing all of us is so grave, with rising infection rates, rising hospitalisations and sadly, increasing numbers of people who are losing their lives to Covid-19.
I know how tough this year has been for everyone in our community, especially those of you who have lost loved ones, or been ill, as a result of this virus.
I also understand how stressful and challenging it has been for businesses, workers and your families who depend upon you.
I recognise that for all of you working in our economy, clarity is important, as is a date you can safely return to work.
From the outset, I have been clear that our actions and our decisions will always be guided by the public health advice.
That expert health advice from the Chief Medical Officer this week could not have been more clear cut - any move away from a two-week extension of the interventions would result in 'excess deaths'.
Were that advice different, and had it supported the easing of restrictions, then that's exactly where I would have gone. But it isn't. It's unequivocal, it is stark. Ease the restrictions, and that will result in more lives being lost.
That is why Sinn Fein Ministers backed the Health Minister's proposal to extend the restrictions for a further two weeks, and voted against any proposal asking for partial easing of the restrictions
I find it appalling that an instrument designed to protect minorities was used by the DUP to block public health measures - measures that would have helped support our health workers.
They did so in the knowledge that we are facing into the reality that the situation with Covid is at its worst since June.
I am clear that I do not want to see an endless cycle of lockdowns, and that restrictions should be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so.
The medical advice this week was clear on the best way to control and suppress the virus. Acting on that advice I sought to put public health first - as I will always do.
Looking ahead, I am hopeful and optimistic that if we all work together we can get on top of this virus, and protect the lives and livelihoods of our people.