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Editor's Viewpoint

New coronavirus restrictions for public in Northern Ireland are necessary

Editor's Viewpoint


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As the coronavirus continues, the extraordinary new lockdown powers announced by the Stormont Executive are as predictable as they are necessary.  (Ben Birchall/PA)

As the coronavirus continues, the extraordinary new lockdown powers announced by the Stormont Executive are as predictable as they are necessary. (Ben Birchall/PA)

As the coronavirus continues, the extraordinary new lockdown powers announced by the Stormont Executive are as predictable as they are necessary. (Ben Birchall/PA)

As the coronavirus continues, the extraordinary new lockdown powers announced by the Stormont Executive are as predictable as they are necessary. The previous restrictions - dismissed by some as 'lockdown-lite' - were, it is now accepted, an insufficient response to the gravity of the crisis.

The six more deaths confirmed yesterday bring the total of fatalities here to 21, and another 86 people have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 410 cases. First Minister Arlene Foster has described the new powers as "extraordinary but proportionate to the threat we all face from this deadly virus".

These new regulations bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK and they will be reviewed after three weeks.

The simple truth is that largely-free societies like that in the UK have traditionally resisted mass social compulsion, except of course in wartime. Let there be no doubt, however, that we are as much at war with this invisible coronavirus as we were with our more traditional enemies.

The result of the previous laissez-faire approach is that when restrictions such as those just announced are imposed, they meet not so much public hostility as bemusement. This is definitely not a time to be bemused.

Nevertheless, in a country where bleach manufacturers still consider it necessary to warn people that drinking their product can be dangerous, it is not hard to see the uphill task which the government faces to make people change their errant behaviours.

Clearly social distancing is the only way to flatten the upward trajectory of the positive Covid-19 diagnoses, thereby preventing the numerical spikes which would overwhelm the NHS.

Thankfully, while the scenes of thousands of people enjoying last weekend's spring sunshine of the north coast have not been repeated, it is still hard to imagine that all the people on our roads yesterday needed to be there.

In real terms, if the slogan and the advice to 'Stay at Home' end up becoming the mantra of 2020, like that of 'Get Brexit Done' in 2019, it will be for very good reasons. It has been said before, and it needs to be said again and again - this is a matter of life and death and we are all in it together.

By staying at home you could save not only your own life but also the life of somebody else.

Belfast Telegraph