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Editor's Viewpoint

Return to work of those who have been shielding must be handled sensitively, and vigilance remains the watchword

Editor's Viewpoint

Dr Tom Black

Doctor Tom Black, chair of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland, has warned that we are entering a more dangerous phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. He has also underlined that anyone who has been shielding must continue to take precautions once the strict rules of lockdown have been relaxed.

He said that employers will have a legal responsibility to ensure that workers who have been shielding are safe, if and when they go back to work. Undoubtedly he is right.

People who have been shielding for 12 weeks cannot afford to risk contracting the virus by returning straight away to their pre-pandemic lives, as much as they will be tempted to do so.

It is important also that employers with staff who have been shielding should be encouraged to be sensitive about the question of returning to work. The same applies to the spouses and partners of people who have been shielding, and who fear that they might introduce the virus into their home if they are forced to go back to work.

Parents who are shielding may have to send their children to live elsewhere for the duration of an outbreak if they want them to remain at school. Clearly there is no easy solution that could apply to all eventualities.

Northern Ireland, under the leadership of First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, has made excellent progress in helping us return to something approaching normality, even by accelerating their own scheduled timescale to do so.

The experience of China in recent days, and also of New Zealand, which was taken as a role model for dealing with the pandemic, has underlined the dangers of people here thinking that we are getting the better of the virus. While many of us may indeed be tempted to drop our guard because of the latest measures to ease the lockdown, the price of good public health and safety is still eternal vigilance.

No one should forget that we are all in this together, and we must continue to act in the best interests of everyone.

Belfast Telegraph