There was a drop in Covid-19 rates within the Derry and Strabane council area but events in Europe have given cause for concern of a potential rise if safety measures are not adhered to by the public
Public transport users in Derry have been reminded of the importance of wearing a facemask when making their journey.
Even though recent figures in both Derry and the rest of the North has shown a drop in rates of those infected with Covid-19, events elsewhere has prompted the Executive to urge people to be vigilant against the virus.
Austria has re-entered a period of lockdown while the measure to implement it is being discussed in Germany.
Department of Health figures from earlier this week show that the Derry and Strabane Council area has seen the seven-day Covid-19 rate fall to 472.6 cases per 100,000 – down from 480.6 and still the lowest figure in the North.
Rates have fallen across all council areas in Northern Ireland with 29,189 people within Derry and Strabane having been tested positive for the virus.
Derry's vaccination rate stands at 201,354 people receiving their jabs while Altnagelvin Hospital recorded zero Covid-19 admissions these past seven days.
However, given how the pandemic originally made its way from the first cases that were reported in China, events on the European mainland have given cause for concern and people in Derry and the North – especially those who use public transport – have been advised not to be complacent.
Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, said: “Covid-19 has not gone away and while our public transport operators have many measures in place to ensure our public transport network is safe, we all must remain vigilant and continue to play our part in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
“This includes adhering to the Face Covering Regulations by wearing a face covering and following the advice of public transport operators. Compliance rates with the mandatory requirements to wear a face covering on public transport have remained high throughout this pandemic but we must redouble our efforts to protect the vulnerable and ourselves and to protect out health service.
“The evidence provided by health professionals is clear, you can reduce the risk of spreading the virus by wearing a face covering. Exemptions are in place for those who cannot wear a face covering but I urge all those who can, to comply with the requirements. I also urge people to wash and sanitise their hands regularly.
“All of these measures can make a difference and help us to reduce the transmission rates of Covid-19, protecting our citizens, our businesses and our health service throughout this winter.”
Earlier this week, Foyle MP, Colum Eastwood had urged the Executive to take firm action and make the difficult decisions to ensure Derry and the North do not face the rise in Covid rates currently being experienced in Austria.
The SDLP leader said: “The message we have been hearing from health service leaders has been clear for months.
“Without urgent intervention, our hospitals will become overwhelmed and people will die needlessly. The challenge we’re facing could not be more stark.
“The SDLP has been deeply frustrated at the slowness to respond to an entirely predictable winter surge situation.
“We proposed additional measures months ago that could have eased pressure on critical services but were voted down.
“We are now in a difficult place and the Executive modelling suggests that we could be in an even worse situation in a few weeks.
“There is no space for political leaders to duck the difficult decisions that must be taken now.
“Firm action in this moment is the only way we can protect lives and livelihoods in the weeks ahead.
“That means clear communication from political leaders, refusing to give in to the naysayers and those who reject medical evidence, and clear explanations of what will happen next.
“We also need to see a stepping up of the booster programme. The effectiveness of the vaccination programme is indisputable.
We need to renew the immunity of those who have been vaccinated and roll this out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
“We have to be laser focused on the objectives of saving our health service and protecting our economy.
“The hard truth is that no one has articulated an alternative to the measures we have proposed because the only other path is to reintroduce tough restrictions that would devastate people and businesses.
“We have done everything in our power to avoid that because I don’t think our economy or our communities could cope with a return to lockdown.
“This is a moment for action. No one can be found wanting.”
The Executive, meanwhile, released a statement urging people to get vaccinated if they haven't already done so, work from home if possible and wear facemasks in public places.
In the statement the Executive said: “The clear advice from public health experts is that an intervention is now required.
“Our people – individuals, families, communities and businesses – have been through so much during this pandemic. Our collective aim is to reduce pressure on our hospitals, while allowing our society and the economy to remain open as fully and safely as possible.
“That means we all need to take action to prevent a worsening of the situation that would potentially require more severe measures.
“Please take up the vaccine, including the booster, when it is offered to you. The evidence on the benefits of vaccination is unequivocal. And the statistics are stark.
“Unvaccinated adults aged under 50 are almost 11 times more likely to need hospitalisation from Covid-19. Unvaccinated individuals aged 50 and over are four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those who are fully vaccinated.
“We are also strengthening the message that people should work from home where possible. More people working from home will help to reduce the risk of transmission both inside and outside the workplace.
“We recognise that this may present challenges in some work areas and ask employees to work from home where they can, and advise employers to support this where possible.
“We understand how difficult this situation is for everyone and we will be stepping up our public information campaign to encourage everyone to keep following the advice.
“None of us wanted to be in this position, but this pandemic is unpredictable and it continues to pose a threat.
“We have an opportunity to make a difference by working together to keep our society open and protect the health service.
“Let’s do everything we can to ensure we halt the spread of Covid as we approach Christmas.”
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