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Right decision at right time is vital

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

There is no doubt that today's NI Executive meeting is of crucial importance in the efforts to combat the second wave of coronavirus. But will whatever emerges from that meeting be enough to convince an increasingly sceptical public that they should follow the advice given.

For it is evident that a significant number of people believe there is a lack of cohesive and coherent leadership at Stormont. Yesterday it seemed that the DUP were going on a solo run taking a contrary view to the other four parties which make up the Executive. First Minister Arlene Foster says it is to be expected that a five-party coalition would have differing emphasis, but surely even that loose alliance - it certainly isn't a cabinet in either tone or action - must recognise they face a common enemy which transcends all party policies and ideologies.

What is vital at this time is that the Executive takes the right decisions at the right time. Instead, it seems there is always drift, always waiting to see what emerges from Westminster before determining what to do here. The politicians have said they will be guided by the science but, if reports coming out yesterday were true, the advice of the medical and scientific advisors was not carrying the weight one would expect. It was being trailed all day that the Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride was wanting any new tighter restrictions to last up to six weeks and should include shutting schools for an extended mid-term break. The First Minister and Education Minister were singing a different tune.

It has to be admitted that balancing lives and livelihoods is a complex and difficult task and there are widely differing views even on how best to protect people from the virus never mind keep the economy ticking over.

But when it seems that the Executive is at loggerheads over the best way forward the public is left in a state of limbo. They wonder if saving lives is the paramount priority then why is the medical and scientific advice not followed to the letter? Why are ministers briefing against each other, making public their stances before the Executive has even discussed them?

Today the Executive needs to set out its stall in clear and unambiguous terms. Decisions need to be made this week and ideally they should be implemented as soon as possible. The public sees no sense in trying to curb the pandemic by a policy of a thousand cuts but wants measures which it feels can deliver results.

The war should be against the virus not among the competing interests of political parties.

Belfast Telegraph