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Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Fein

Until vaccine is found we all must learn to co-exist with the coronavirus

Michelle O'Neill


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The head of the World Health Organisation says there are up to eight top candidates for a coronavirus vaccine under examination (Pool/PA)

The head of the World Health Organisation says there are up to eight top candidates for a coronavirus vaccine under examination (Pool/PA)

The head of the World Health Organisation says there are up to eight top candidates for a coronavirus vaccine under examination (Pool/PA)

We are in the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

Covid-19 is causing loss of life and great hardship throughout this island and across the world.

We have had to put in place restrictions which once would have been unthinkable.

We don't underestimate the impact these severe restrictions have had. I understand you want your family life back, to visit and socialise with friends and family, to give grandchildren a hug.

And the need for businesses to be able to open safely.

The restrictions remain largely in place, because they are necessary and they're working.

It is also important we give people hope.

The Executive has now set out our pathway for how the restrictions may be eased.

Its five-step approach sets out the risk evaluation we will make at each stage to restart family/community, educational and economic activity.

These decisions will be evidenced by medical and scientific advice and international best practice, including the World Health Organisation. We will not keep restrictions in place longer than they are required.

We have built in the necessary flexibility to respond to the complex emerging situation.

And we are prepared to step forward and step back if this is needed.

We must take into account the health and social care services' capacity to deal with Covid-19 and the other health and care challenges.

We cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded and controlling the rate of transmission is absolutely critical.

A restriction should only be relaxed when there is a reasonable prospect of maintaining the R rate at or below 1.

This means we need to have testing, tracking and tracing arrangements to enable us to safely lift restrictions. Testing capacity has grown, and more sectors have availed of that.

It is a cornerstone of our ability to lift restrictions as we move forward.

Of course, we face great challenges in the fightback against Covid-19, particularly in care homes and increased testing will be critical to that.

And while the message remains that people should work from home if possible, some are not able to.

Preventive measures must be in place in workplaces and other places where it is essential for people to go as we go forward.

We have set out the Executive's criteria in making decisions and we will communicate these to the public.

On Monday, as we move towards step one in our phased recovery plan, we will update the public on further easing that can happen soon.

Our top priority remains saving lives by combating the spread of this virus through staying at home and practising social distancing.

Until a vaccine is found it means co-existing with the virus and a radical change to our daily lives.

I ask people to continue to follow the guidelines as we move through the stages to save lives and protect our health service.

Michelle O'Neill is the Deputy First Minister

Belfast Telegraph