Rising Covid infections across Northern Ireland are a reminder to us all that we are living in a very different world than we were before the first case of the virus was confirmed here back in February 2020.
While almost all of the restrictions imposed during the dark days at the height of the pandemic have been lifted, the rising number of Covid cases shows us we cannot afford to be complacent if we want to see any of these rules re-introduced. This is especially true for anyone hoping to go abroad for holiday over the summer.
Warnings from our chief scientific advisor Professor Ian Young that further Covid vaccines are likely to be needed this autumn highlights not only that the virus hasn’t gone away, but that vaccines work. We only need to look at the massive sporting events, concerts, weddings and family gatherings that have been able to go ahead without incident thanks to people getting jabbed.
Professor Young has warned, however, that vaccines do not protect us very well from reinfection, so those planning to go abroad would be wise to adhere to the medic’s advice regarding taking further precautions.
Vaccines mean that less people are now getting sick if they become infected with the virus, but the isolation rules being promoted by our health chiefs leave a lot to be desired when it comes to clarity. It is doubtful if many people could recite the current rules off the top of their head.
It is welcome news that Professor Young believes we are approaching the end of the current Covid wave, or we may have actually already passed it, but previous experience shows just how quickly the virus can adapt and take hold. We can’t predict exactly what will happen moving into the winter months, however we can protect ourselves to the best of our ability. That may well mean a return to face coverings in some settings, which would be but a small inconvenience for the sake of our health and the health of others.
One question that does remain is the current political impasse which could impact Stormont and the health service’s response to further waves of the virus. In the past, the political will existed to find agreement on restrictions and other aspects of the Covid response. If that will is not there when winter comes, it will make a dire situation worse.
All of us who are eligible can do our part in coming forward for further flu or Covid vaccine rollouts and sticking to whatever new guidance comes our way in the future. The alternative does not bear thinking about.