As spring progresses and days get brighter, so, too, does our hope that we can move towards some sort of normality in the battle against Covid-19. Our health service has done tremendous work over the past year in putting in place innovative and robust interventions - vaccination, testing, contact tracing and support for schools, care homes and employers, to name just a few - but a key part of any success in tackling coronavirus is the actions of the public.
As we look towards lockdown easing, it is essential that we all continue to remain vigilant, avoid complacency and work with our health service if we need to get tested, or self-isolate.
Northern Ireland has in place one of the most comprehensive test and trace systems anywhere, which is being complemented by a world-leading vaccination programme.
Our contact tracing service - the first in the UK to go live last year - has been successfully engaging with people who have received a positive Covid-19 test result to identify and alert their close contacts. This means that those contacts can self-isolate to help reduce the risk of any onward spread.
By combining telephone contact tracing, where we will ring people who receive a positive result, with a digital self-trace option, which allows people to enter details of their contacts online, we are helping to ensure that we reach as many people as possible in a way that suits them.
However, although the service has been consistently meeting targets for months - even during the massive peak in cases over Christmas and the New Year - there are still people who aren't picking up the phone, or completing the online form.
As with any aspect of the Covid-19 response, it can only be fully effective if everyone plays their part, so I would urge anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 to work with our contact tracing service and share details of their contacts, and anyone who receives an alert to say they are a close contact to self-isolate as advised. Remember: the whole service is completely confidential.
As lockdown starts to ease, we are also working with our partners to help enable this to happen in as safe and managed a way as possible.
For example, collaborative working will enable a range of school pupils and staff to do Covid-19 testing at home to help flag up positive cases even before symptoms develop, which, in turn, will help protect the wider school community.
Programmes such as this will help enable children to get back to class, while also managing the risk that no doubt still exists.
Again, this can only be successful if everyone plays their part and completes the home testing, so we would urge parents of those children to work with us for the protection of their family, classmates and school staff.
Complementing all of this work and bringing much hope is the fantastic roll-out of the vaccination programme.
Since December, colleagues across the service have been working tirelessly to deliver the vaccine to hundreds of thousands of people in order of risk.
Never before have we seen vaccination happen at such a pace and it is a tremendous testament to our health service staff's dedication to keeping people safe.
For example, some of the most vulnerable members of our community - care home residents - received the vaccine very quickly as soon as it was approved.
This happened despite the challenges of high community case numbers in December and January, which highlights the innovation, commitment and collaboration of all partners involved in that work.
It is important to note, though, that for the vaccine to have maximum effectiveness, we need as many eligible people to get it as possible.
As we move through the groups, uptake to date has been very good, but as younger people come online we really need them to choose to get it, too.
By maximising vaccination, we can not only help to protect ourselves, but also more vulnerable members of our community.
We also need to all continue to follow regulations and public health advice even after we get the vaccine.
Vaccination will reduce the chance of getting Covid-19, but it may not eradicate the risk completely.
Also, we need to see what impact the vaccine has on reducing the spread of the disease - research is ongoing to examine the extent to which vaccinated people can still pass coronavirus to others.
Therefore, it is essential that we continue to follow public health advice about wearing a face covering, maintaining social distancing and washing our hands.
The past year has brought massive heartache for many people as a result of this disease, unimaginable disruption to our daily lives and put our health service under tremendous pressure.
However, with a range of support in place to help manage Covid-19, people can be reassured that in Northern Ireland we are putting in a massive effort to help tackle the pandemic.
Therefore, I really would re-emphasise my call for members of the public to continue to work with us, as any effort to face-down this disease can only work effectively if all parts of it play their role.
By continuing to follow public health advice around reducing the risk of spread, getting tested if you become symptomatic, sharing details of your contacts if you do test positive, self-isolating if you are alerted that you have been in contact with a confirmed case, participating in asymptomatic testing programmes that are being rolled out and getting vaccinated when you are eligible, you can play your part in helping get us back to some form of normality.
You will also be helping reduce the pressure on our health service, which, in turn, will enable it to refocus back on treating other illnesses and conditions.
We have effective ways to tackle and manage coronavirus - let's not get side-tracked by criticism from those who ignore the available evidence, for it's only by continuing to work together that we will get through this much sooner.
Dr Stephen Bergin is Director of Public Health at the Public Health Agency