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Editor's Viewpoint

Tough, but right, to put data above dates in NI lockdown exit plan

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The rollout of the vaccination programme has been one of the Executive's triumphs

The rollout of the vaccination programme has been one of the Executive's triumphs

The rollout of the vaccination programme has been one of the Executive's triumphs

It was well signposted that there would be one glaring omission from the Executive's plan to exit lockdown - a timetable. That was because the politicians were determined to follow the data and not the dates, and that is the right attitude given past experience when restrictions were eased too much, too early.

However, that has not prevented the various vested interests in the economy complaining. The hospitality industry, retailing, leisure and culture have valid arguments that they need some indication of when they will be able to open their shutters and get back in business.

Yet their point of view does not trump the need to proceed slowly and cautiously. After all, many of those who wanted a normal Christmas later complained, through the perfect prism of hindsight, that the restrictions were eased too much, leading to a surge in infections and deaths and the current 10 weeks of lockdown.

The rollout of the vaccination programme has been one of the Executive's triumphs and has resulted in falling infection numbers, fewer people being admitted to hospital and fewer dying from Covid-19.

The hope is that the downward spiral in all these indicators will continue and that the road to recovery will be shorter than some fear. The Executive deserves credit for sticking to this plan given the tensions in at the moment over the effects of Brexit.

In the past when parties have been at loggerheads over one issue it has infected everything else to the point, on occasion, of collapse of government.

It is clear that the Executive has learned from past mistakes and is doing more than paying lip service to scientific and medical advice.

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While it would be lovely to ring dates on the calendar for when various sectors can reopen, the virus does not behave in such a rational manner.

Imagine if the infection rate prevented a planned reopening of, say, retail when shopkeepers and the public were geared up for a shopping spree. The Executive would be lambasted for raising hopes unduly.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't acknowledge the frustration of the public and business over the indefinite nature of the Executive's plan.

But we can all play a part in making the return to normality as quick and safe as possible by adhering to the guidelines, which have served us well since Boxing Day.

The vaccination programme has had a dramatic and positive effect that everyone hopes will continue and make each monthly review of the roadmap another step towards freedom.


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