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Editor's Viewpoint

We must be patient and trust in Executive coronavirus lockdown pathway

Editor's Viewpoint


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First Minister Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday

First Minister Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday

First Minister Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday

The Executive's pathway to recovery is like a mirage to many people. Business leaders in particular are critical that it does not contain dates when relaxation of the lockdown rules will take place.

It is understandable that they would like more time to plan a return to some kind of normality, including such issues as rehiring staff, recovering supply chains and trying to fill their order books or their stock holdings.

But there is also validity in the Executive's decision to avoid setting dates throughout the pathway document for when different sectors can expect to be operational again.

As they pointed out yesterday when saying that small outdoor weddings could take place early next month and car showrooms and some non-essential retailers could soon be given the green light, everything is dependent on how well the coronavirus is being contained.

It is down to the discipline and common sense of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland that the potential rate of infection has dropped dramatically, but the hard-won gains could be lost very quickly if we or the authorities drop our guards.

If the magical R number - the average number of people that one infected person can pass the virus onto - remains below 1, then the promised relaxations can go ahead. But it is by no means a certainty, and hence the reluctance of ministers at Stormont to give longer lead-in times for changes to the rules. We can glimpse the promised land, but not necessarily set out towards it.

We must also remember that for people who are shielding or unable to leave home because they have underlying health problems or are among a vulnerable sections of the community, relaxation of the rules in tentative steps will make no change to their daily lives.

There is also the effect that the pandemic has had on an already over-stressed NHS in the province, with latest statistics showing more than 307,000 people waiting for their first appointment with a consultant for the whole gamut of health concerns.

Those people whose health deteriorates to an untreatable stage while on the waiting list will never feature in the final coronavirus death toll, but the pandemic will have surely played a part in their demise.

We owe it to those people, as well as those with the virus, to continue to exercise common sense and follow the basic rules of lockdown to enable hospitals to tackle the chronic waiting lists.

Belfast Telegraph