The Health Minister Robin Swann has urged everyone to take the opportunity offered by the two week circuit breaker to drive down the rate of Covid-19 infection and ensure a safer Christmas for families.
On the eve of the new restrictions coming into force, Mr Swann made it clear that by taking responsibility for our actions, we can achieve maximum benefit from the next fortnight.
The Minister said: “Our Covid fightback enters a new phase tomorrow, with the beginning of a fortnight long new lockdown and we have to make the most of it.
“We need everyone to stay at home as much as possible because that’s how we’re going to stop the virus spreading. By staying at home and limiting our contacts, we will protect ourselves, our families and the health service, and crucially, we’ll help to save lives.”
Mr Swann continued: “Our frontline health and social care workers are once again working under tremendous pressure to provide the very best care to all patients in the most challenging circumstances. The more we push down rates of infection, the fewer sick people there will be in our hospitals in the weeks ahead and the more scope there is to keep providing as high a level of non-Covid elective activity as possible.”
The decision was taken to introduce the circuit breaker from tomorrow after modelling indicated it offered a greater likelihood of avoiding further restrictions before Christmas.
Under the restrictions, there should be no household gatherings, other than those involving support bubbles and people should work from home if at all possible, only leaving for essential purposes such as education, healthcare needs, to care for others, or outdoor exercise. A full list of the restrictions and the business which may remain open is available on the NIDirect website
The Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride commented: “The next two weeks will give us the opportunity and the space to really tackle this virus and push the rate of transmission down hard. These restrictions will be similar to what we had back in March and I am very aware of the impact this may have in terms of mental and physical health.
“But if we do this now, if we fight this virus with everything we have, then we have a chance of getting through Christmas in a better place than we are now. I would urge everyone to unite in this phase of our fight against the virus.”
Looking ahead, the Health Minister added: “There is light at the end of this very long tunnel, with important progress being made on the development of vaccines. Regulatory approvals have still to be granted, so we should take nothing for granted.
“While we’re undertaking intensive preparations for the massive logistical job of rolling out the vaccination programme, this is not the time to relax our guard or lose focus on stopping the spread of the virus. Let’s do this together, and look forward to spending Christmas with our loved ones in the safest way possible.”