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Editor's Viewpoint

No easy solutions for the coronavirus crisis

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A nurse during a demonstration of the Covid-19 virus testing procedures set-up

A nurse during a demonstration of the Covid-19 virus testing procedures set-up

A nurse during a demonstration of the Covid-19 virus testing procedures set-up

As health officials attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus, they face a difficult task in trying to give accurate information without causing undue alarm. Yet they also have to ensure that the public understands the seriousness of the situation and potential developments.

It is in that context that we must view a senior Northern Ireland doctor's warning that medical staff could be forced to decide which patients get an intensive care bed if there is an upsurge in cases.

His comments came as it was revealed that another two people here had been confirmed as having the virus.

It has to be emphasised that the doctor was talking about a potential worse-case scenario.

The medical authorities in Britain and Northern Ireland have acted with admirable speed in drawing up measures designed to contain the spread of the virus.

No one is sure whether that is possible in the longer term because the only certain way of preventing someone from getting infected is to cut the province off from the outside world, which obviously is not feasible.

The creation of drive-through testing centres and isolation facilities shows that medical authorities are taking the threat from the virus very seriously, and there are predictions that a surge in cases could happen next month.

It must be emphasised that there is huge personal responsibility on each of us to do our utmost to avoid infection.

That obviously includes staying away from areas which have a high concentration of cases, but also following the guidance on hand-washing, avoiding shaking hands and taking action to self-isolate if deemed necessary.

In the longer term, the virus has the ability to seriously affect everyday life. How should public transport companies respond - perhaps by including hand sanitisers on vehicles as an initial measure?

Should employers consider allowing all but essential staff to work from home in an era when technology makes that feasible for many businesses?

Should they at least avoid hot-desking, in which several employees use the same equipment throughout the day?

There are no easy answers to the questions many people are asking.

Governments can put the rudiments of care and containment in place, but they have to be poised to act quickly as new developments and threats emerge.

Hopefully the worst-case scenarios never occur.

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