Appeal as Covid figures decrease

Appeal as Covid figures decrease

14 October 2020

A FRESH appeal has been issued to people across the district to continue doing all in their power to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and listen to the advice of health professionals.

It has been issued by Newry, Mourne and Down Council chairwoman Laura Devlin and comes after the latest figures published by the Department of Health reveal that there has been a slight decrease in the number of people who have been infected.

Health chiefs have confirmed that 567 people tested positive over the past week — a decrease of  40 over the previous seven days.

Since the start of the pandemic, 46 people across the council area have lost their lives to the virus.

Cllr Devlin, who last week appealed to people to obey public health messaging around washing your hands, wearing a mask covering your mouth and nose and exercising social distancing, said she was “overwhelmed” by the response.

But she said as the virus remains a clear and present danger, people need to continue to follow public health advice to reduce the infection rate.

“Last week I shared the worrying news that Covid-19 was on the rise in Newry, Mourne and Down and across Northern Ireland and issued an urgent appeal for action, asking every resident to do everything in their power to help. 

“I have been overwhelmed with the response, with the district coming together to get the message out to remember social distancing, wear a face covering where required and wash their hands.”

Thanking people for their response, the council chairwoman said she was delighted that many had redoubled their efforts.

“We can still, for now and with care, enjoy local businesses remaining open and while the growth of the infection rate in our district has blunted, cases are currently still increasing,” she said. “This is a very concerning situation.”

The council chairwoman also had a clear message for those who are choosing not to wear face masks where required and are not complying with public health guidance.

“Please listen to our health professionals,” implored Cllr Devlin.

“They are deeply concerned because hospital admissions, not just case numbers, are increasing across Northern Ireland and they want to make sure there are enough intensive care beds of people are involved in a car accident or suffer a heart attack.”

The council chairwoman said that whatever happens over the coming weeks, she knows that the efforts people have made in Newry, Mourne and Down over the past week will have made a difference to case numbers and may well have saved lives.

She added: “New regulations are on the way from the Executive for face coverings, including an increase in fixed penalty notices for flouting Covid regulations.

“Please, if you do one thing, pack a face covering in your bag or in your pocket ready to go. If not exempt, please wear one where required. Follow the Rules’ campaign and let’s continue to work together.”

Also this week, Baroness Margaret Ritchie warned that as a result of Covid-19, Northern Ireland is facing economic disaster as the pandemic reaches alarming levels and told the House of Lords that while public health had to be protected, so must jobs and the economy.

The former SDLP leader and South Down MP called for the British Government to ensure that best practice in both stamping down on the virus and protecting businesses was captured and rolled out across the UK.

“We have different approaches across Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales,” she said. “That’s what devolution is all about and it’s right and proper that each part of the UK should be able to make its own rules.

“However, it also makes sense for each of the devolved nations and regions to learn from the other. The Westminster government should be monitoring the different approaches and co-ordinating the lessons learned so that everyone benefits.”

Lady Ritchie also warned her fellow peers that the Northern Ireland economy was now at a “critical juncture” and that the future of many jobs and businesses hung by a thread.

She declared: “The number of Covid-19 cases in the country has rocketed in recent days and we are now in the unenviable position of having one of the highest infection rates in the world.

“On top of this, the Northern Irish economy has contracted by 18 per cent. That is a massive and unprecedented collapse and ultimately, it is completely unsustainable.”

Lady Ritchie said sectors such as the local aviation industry have already been dealt a serious blow and there are now real fears for the hospitality sector as pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels curtail their operations.

She added: “We should not and must not have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our people. A balanced and sensible approach is needed.

“The British Government must recognise that by providing us with all the financial and resource support we need.”