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Editor's Viewpoint

Caution is key in any easing of coronavirus lockdown

Editor's Viewpoint


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If restrictions are eased, similar discipline and consideration for others remains vitally important, especially observing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and constant awareness that the virus is very infectious and can be lethal to anyone

If restrictions are eased, similar discipline and consideration for others remains vitally important, especially observing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and constant awareness that the virus is very infectious and can be lethal to anyone

PA

If restrictions are eased, similar discipline and consideration for others remains vitally important, especially observing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and constant awareness that the virus is very infectious and can be lethal to anyone

It is encouraging that a conversation is taking place within the Executive about possible ways of loosening the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Agriculture and Environment Minister Edwin Poots has raised the possibility of churches resuming for services and garden centres reopening.

No decision on easing the restrictions has been taken, but Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said the issue would be reviewed next week, with the outcome depending on scientific and medical advice.

That is the sensible way to progress. Bowing to public pressure to relax restrictions, which could end up endangering lives, would be reckless.

What the public has to realise is that it is their behaviour which determines how and how soon we can get back to some kind of normality.

The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland have followed the government's advice - and that is reflected in the flattening of the pandemic curve.

If restrictions are eased, similar discipline and consideration for others remains vitally important, especially observing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and constant awareness that the virus is very infectious and can be lethal to anyone.

The reopening of cemeteries, allowing pedestrian access to forest parks and reopening some council recycling centres is an indication of Executive thinking - allowing people to access facilities where it is possible to follow safety measures.

It is difficult, however, to see how church services could be held in the normal way.

Mr Poots' suggestion of drive-in services is possible, but people can already access services online or by radio.

Allowing people to access churches for private prayer or reflection would recognise the sacred nature of churches and the desire of people to visit them, although it would have to be monitored and controlled.

Garden centres, by their size, make social distancing possible, and given that the prime sales time ends within a couple of months, opening them would make economic sense - no compensation would be necessary from the public purse - while also keeping public safety at the forefront of our minds.

What must not be allowed to happen is that exploration of ways of easing lockdown becomes an expectation in the public mind. Until a vaccine is found, we must continue to live with restrictions. Otherwise we are playing Russian roulette with our lives.

Belfast Telegraph