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Editor's Viewpoint

Easing of coronavirus lockdown in Northern Ireland must not be rushed

Editor's Viewpoint


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A self isolating walk along Whiterocks beach near Portrush, Co-Antrim during Easter weekend, across the bay from Co-Donegal in Republic of Ireland. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

A self isolating walk along Whiterocks beach near Portrush, Co-Antrim during Easter weekend, across the bay from Co-Donegal in Republic of Ireland. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

A self isolating walk along Whiterocks beach near Portrush, Co-Antrim during Easter weekend, across the bay from Co-Donegal in Republic of Ireland. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

Fortunately, the vast majority of people have heeded the advice to stay at home and avoid our many beauty spots over this Easter weekend which, due to coronavirus, has been like no other.

There had been fears that the good weather and the “cabin fever” to which we can all be prone would compel some day-trippers to ignore politicians’ calls to curtail their movements.

The Government’s apt slogan “Stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS” has been repeated with such mantra-like intensity since the lockdown began three weeks ago that the message finally seems to be getting through.

First Minister Arlene Foster was right when she said that Easter is a special time for families and that the restrictions on movement were just that — restrictive.

However, she felt they were appropriate and proportionate given the grave threat we all face.

It is true that those of us fortunate enough to live in largely-free democracies may chafe at any restrictions on our movements.

Yet while some European countries are considering easing their lockdowns, and even in Britain some ministers’ minds are turning to the challenges of a post-Covid-19 society, it is vital that we make the control of the virus our first priority.

Every sector of the economy here is suffering from the lockdown.

There were also warnings that the Government’s coronavirus grants are taking too long to reach firms in our tourism industry at what should be one of the busiest times of their year.

Experts estimate that Northern Ireland could be losing almost £50 million in economic output for every day the lockdown continues, and it is no surprise that small businesses in particular are creaking under the pressure.

Stark as these figures are, even more stark is the fact that 26 more lives were lost to the virus here at the weekend — 15 were announced on Saturday and a further 11 yesterday, and their families have all our sympathies.

However, our thoughts can only return to relaxing the restrictions on movement when the medical experts, on whose advice our politicians rely, can assure them that the virus is under control.

Unfortunately, as the personal and family tragedies behind each of those statistics confirm every heartbreaking detail, we are far from getting this virus under control.

Belfast Telegraph