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Editor's Viewpoint

A landmark day, but the coronavirus threat remains

Editor's Viewpoint


Health Minister Robin Swann

Health Minister Robin Swann

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Health Minister Robin Swann

As Health Minister Robin Swann said, yesterday was a day everyone in Northern Ireland had been looking forward to - the day when no deaths from coronavirus were reported. This was the first time in 10 weeks that no one had died from the disease or its complications.

While it is a landmark worth marking, it should not be taken as a signal that the threat from the virus is negligible. Nothing could be further from the truth. The constant fall in the daily death total was due to the maturity of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland in adhering to government advice to stay at home, observe social distancing when out and wash hands frequently.

In a way, the public deserves to give itself a clap like its weekly applause for the heroes of the NHS and other frontline jobs. Without the public heeding official advice, the virus could still be running rampant.

And it could do so again unless the basic defences against it continue to be taken even as lockdown restrictions are eased. Allowing people greater freedom should not be interpreted as an opportunity to take greater risks; otherwise, as Mr Swann points out, the consequences could be catastrophic, with a second and possibly even more deadly spike in infections and deaths.

We may be taking the first tentative steps towards at least a new normal but the challenges ahead for everyone are immense.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has warned that government departments could run out of money within weeks. He also forecast that the recession caused by coronavirus' paralysing blows to the economy will be deep and long-lasting.

The government's support for business cannot continue indefinitely and so the demand for a return to work grows daily, but always the politicians have to balance the health of the population against the wellbeing of the economy. Anyone who values their own life knows which side they want to be given priority.

What yesterday showed was what can be achieved when a community pulls together as one. That spirit is still required. For many people this good news changes nothing, they still have to self-isolate, continue shielding and still be unable to see their loved ones at close quarters. The risk for them goes on. There are hundreds of families who know how that risk has devastated their lives. Make sure you don't become another statistic.

Belfast Telegraph