'Now is not the time to lose the run of ourselves', says Health Minister Robin Swann

'Now is not the time to lose the run of ourselves', says Health Minister Robin Swann

Positive news of a vaccine roll-out and society reopening tomorrow was chastened by a stern warning from the Health Minister that the next Covid-19 surge could be the ‘most aggressive’ yet.

Another care home resident who contracted Covid died on Monday of this week in the Derry council area - she was aged over 80.

A man of a similar age died on December 4 in hospital.

Since the start of this week three people have been admitted to Atlnagelvin Hospital with Covid-19.

Speaking at yesterday’s Covid briefing ahead of businesses reopening after a two week lockdown - eight weeks in total for Derry City and Strabane - Minister Robin Swann issued a reminder of the need to retain discipline and stick to the guidelines.

He said the vaccination programme is underway and with that there is a ‘real risk that defences will start to slip’ and people may ‘worryingly conclude that the battle with Covid is over’.

With Christmas fast-approaching discipline could slip further, he added.

“We must not let that happen, because we cannot let that happen.

“This pandemic is far from finished, indeed I am still very concerned that the next surge in infections could in fact be the most aggressive yet.”

The health service remains under pressure and staff are ‘exhausted’

“But each of us can help ease those fears.  Our behaviours will dictate just how well Northern Ireland gets through this critical phase.

“Cutting down our contacts, keeping our distances, avoiding crowded settings, wearing a face covering and washing our hands,” Minister Swann said.

He added that while it is right to celebrate the commencement of the vaccination programme, ‘now is not the time to lose the run of ourselves because we can see the finishing line in the distance’.

But he advised people to continue to work hard until the vaccine does the work for us.

The health minister urged people to use the optimism from this week to ‘re-energise our determination and resolve’.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said one thing is more infectious than the virus and that is hope.

He described the roll-out of the vaccine as a truly ‘momentous’ occasion.

Altnagelvin Hospital had 40 Covid inpatients three of whom were in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as of yesterday.

The Derry hospital was among six running over capacity.

Derry City and Strabane recorded an additional 47 positive Covid tests.

Over the past seven days there have been 267 cases in the council area and the seven day rate of infection per 100k of population sits at 183.2.

Three other council areas currently have higher rates.

Twelve more deaths were announced across Northern Ireland.

Derry City and Strabane has a total of 80 Covid deaths, according to Department of Health statistics.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) reports, which go up to November 27 and are based on death certificates where Covid is mentioned, detail 93 Covid deaths in the council area.


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