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Editor's Viewpoint

Common sense best way to contain coronavirus

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Could Northern Ireland be only a fortnight away from a complete lockdown like Italy, as one medical expert has predicted? Following the Italian experience, the answer has to be yes, unless we follow the science as we are encouraged to do and don't try to second guess the best way to combat coronavirus

Could Northern Ireland be only a fortnight away from a complete lockdown like Italy, as one medical expert has predicted? Following the Italian experience, the answer has to be yes, unless we follow the science as we are encouraged to do and don't try to second guess the best way to combat coronavirus

Could Northern Ireland be only a fortnight away from a complete lockdown like Italy, as one medical expert has predicted? Following the Italian experience, the answer has to be yes, unless we follow the science as we are encouraged to do and don't try to second guess the best way to combat coronavirus

Could Northern Ireland be only a fortnight away from a complete lockdown like Italy, as one medical expert has predicted? Following the Italian experience, the answer has to be yes, unless we follow the science as we are encouraged to do and don't try to second guess the best way to combat coronavirus.

Already it has had a disruptive effect on day-to-day life, but the situation is bound to worsen in the coming weeks.

In our favour is the fact that Northern Ireland has a significantly dispersed population and a relatively low number of residents, making it easier to trace contacts of anyone confirmed to have the disease.

However things can change very rapidly and even decisions taken for the best of reasons can have unexpected consequences.

A case in point is the decision to cancel St Patrick's Day parades in the province, as has also happened in the Republic.

That, however, will not stop people going out to celebrate, and there is a greater risk of infection being spread in places such as pubs than in the open air.

While the idea of Northern Ireland going into lockdown seems like a doomsday scenario, it is less alarming than the prediction by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that more than half the Republic's population could contract the virus. Many wonder if that figure is backed up by science.

What we expect from our politicians at this time of undoubted crisis is leadership.

It is encouraging to see that First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill have decided to cancel their trip to the US for St Patrick's Day. Their priority must be to oversee events at home.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was rightly criticised for being invisible during the devastating floods in England and Wales. He needs to ensure that he does not duck his responsibilities at this time.

Of course, all the precautions being taken will have an effect on the local economy, which is hardly in rude health - one economist estimates cancelling the St Patrick's Day parades here could mean the loss of £400,000.

It must be emphasised that every individual has a role to play at the moment in containing the disease.

Simple hand-washing is an effective weapon and so is self-isolation, if there is any indication of infection until tests can prove or disprove it.

As ever, a large dose of common sense can work wonders and even save lives.

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