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If complacency is allowed to creep in now, it'll cost lives

Tom Black


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Lockdown could remain for the foreseeable future

Lockdown could remain for the foreseeable future

Lockdown could remain for the foreseeable future

The people of Northern Ireland have worked very hard to make the lockdown effective.

We have reduced the number of Covid-19 cases in the community and reduced the number of people admitted to hospital. We now have a manageable number in ICU.

The greatest risk to what we have achieved with all this hard work is complacency.

We must continue thoroughly washing our hands, keeping our hands away from our faces and maintaining social distancing for all and social isolation for the most vulnerable. We have to avoid social gatherings or we will suffer a second wave of infections.

The process of easing the lockdown will have to be flexible across the UK. Health Minister Robin Swann has assured us that it will be appropriate for the conditions prevalent in Northern Ireland and that it will only happen when the time is right.

The focus over the next phase should be on maintaining suppression of Covid-19 and protecting lives while gradually resuming economic activity.

This is likely to last for months until we have an effective vaccine.

The process of easing lockdown will be informed by the best available data and research. We will learn from the experiences of other countries as they ease their lockdowns.

We have been increasing our testing for Covid-19. Contact tracing is being planned and staff recruited for this effort so that we can control outbreaks and limit the spread of the disease.

Vulnerable and at-risk groups must have their physical, mental and social needs prioritised.

Testing for infection and running antibody tests to see has had the infection will be an important element of controlling transmission.

We will need to continue our efforts to ensure an adequate supply of PPE for our NHS workers and our health and social care staff. We'll have to focus all our efforts on care homes to support the excellent staff there.

Social distancing will have to continue for the foreseeable future, facemasks will become a common sight in the community and we won't be shaking hands or hugging friends for a long time

GPs will soon begin to open their practices for more routine services using telephone and video consultations.

Patients are being encouraged to attend emergency departments and hospitals because there are concerns about illnesses other than Covid-19 being missed.

Red-flag referrals for cancer diagnosis will be a priority.

Mental health services will have a challenging time the once lockdown is eased.

We will see new ways of working in the health service continued.

Social distancing will have to continue for the foreseeable future, facemasks will become a common sight in the community and we won't be shaking hands or hugging friends for a long time.

We are at the end of the beginning. If we allow complacency to creep in, it will cost lives.

Everyone has done well to follow the guidelines so far, but history teaches us that we need to maintain this short-term pain for the long-term gain of getting our normal lives back.

Wash your hands, keep your distance and stay safe.

Tom Black is chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph