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Attitudes must now change to stop virus

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'It appears that significant numbers of people have to be forced to stop meeting in large groups or putting other people at risk by not wearing face masks.' Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

'It appears that significant numbers of people have to be forced to stop meeting in large groups or putting other people at risk by not wearing face masks.' Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

'It appears that significant numbers of people have to be forced to stop meeting in large groups or putting other people at risk by not wearing face masks.' Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press

We cannot say that we were not warned. Already the rate of spread of Covid has reached record levels with 1,800 new cases reported yesterday and the seven day total soaring from 5,000 to 12,000 in a very short period of time. Deaths have risen by 20% in the last week. And, the frightening warning, the worst is yet to come after the excesses of Christmas. Such is the gravity of the situation that the entire UK has gone, or is about to go, into virtual lockdown.

It is a return to the situation in March last year and an indication that the various administrations, including our devolved Executive, have few levers left to pull in a bid to curb the transmission of the virus.

The most controversial move - which we await to find out if it will be replicated in the province - is the closure of schools and colleges to face-to-face learning except for children of key workers and those who are vulnerable. Everyone is aware that children, who ironically are little affected by the virus, although they can be vehicles for transmission, have borne a heavy burden during the past year with repeated shut downs or moves to distanced learning.

Will exams be cancelled in Northern Ireland as is to happen in England? Lost school days can affect life chances and education must remain a priority but such is the spread of Covid it is very difficult to say all pupils should go back to the classroom from where they could spread the disease to families on their return home. It has been easy to blame the politicians for mistakes made during the pandemic but the public must also take responsibility.

Photographs of crowds of people blatantly disobeying government advice in north-west coastal resorts at the weekend has hardened First Minister Arlene Foster's attitude and she and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill are singing from the same hymn sheet by demanding that regulations are given legal standing to enable the PSNI to take tougher enforcement action.

It appears that significant numbers of people have to be forced to stop meeting in large groups or putting other people at risk by not wearing face masks. However, legal enforcement cannot be a diktat handed down by the leaders of the two largest parties in the Assembly.

It is a move which must be debated fully and gain consensus. That would show the public that the politicians are united.

Christmas is usually an expensive time of the year, but this January we will be paying an even higher bill in illness and death unless we change our attitudes.

Belfast Telegraph


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