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Editor's Viewpoint

Let's not lower guard or allow complacency during coronavirus outbreak

Editor's Viewpoint


Niall Murphy is applauded by NHS staff as he is wheeled out of the intensive care unit

Niall Murphy is applauded by NHS staff as he is wheeled out of the intensive care unit

Niall Murphy is applauded by NHS staff as he is wheeled out of the intensive care unit

At a time when official statements on the coronavirus pandemic are being openly questioned, particularly in London, it is reassuring to note that at least the fundamental message of social distancing and lockdown are showing their true worth in Northern Ireland.

It appears (there always has to be a note of caution because of the sheer virulence of the virus) that heeding Government advice to stay indoors as much as possible and to keep our distance from others if we have to venture outdoors is making a real impact on the spread of the disease.

The curve is plateauing and scientific advisers have drastically revised their modelling, which suggested a worst case scenario at one stage of 14,000 deaths to a new total of 1,500. The current death toll here stands at 207.

This should encourage all of us to continue with social distancing and lockdown. There is no room for complacency and no one is yet certain in the absence of a vaccine how we can remove the threat from the virus, which could cause an upward spiral in illness and death at the first lowering of our guard.

If anyone is in any doubt about the deadly potential of coronavirus then they should read solicitor Niall Murphy's account of his near death experience, spending 16 days in an induced coma before his life was saved by the expertise and care of NHS staff.

The human rights lawyer, who has often crossed swords with officialdom, pulls no punches in what he regards as the failure of the Government to treat the NHS fairly and now tries to cover its tracks with honeyed words of congratulations to those combating the disease with inadequate personal protective equipment. It is worrying that Northern Ireland has sent PPE back to London, according to Mr Murphy, while Health Minister Robin Swann yesterday refused to rule out that there would always be sufficient supplies for staff here.

If Mr Murphy is correct, the minister and Department of Health have to answer why our NHS workers could be put in danger in future through lack of PPE.

Among healthcare staff most in danger are those working in community settings visiting several private homes numerous times every week. Fintona mother-of-four Martina McCann paid the ultimate price for the dedication to her work. Heroes like her should never be forgotten, nor taken for granted by either Government or the public.

Belfast Telegraph