Public health authorities on both sides of border urge caution
The Public Health Agency (PHA) in Northern Ireland and the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the Republic of Ireland are urging people to stick to key public health advice and exercise caution over coming weeks, particularly with regard to cross-border activity.
The call comes as Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland progress on the easing of their respective lockdowns.
Dr Gerry Waldron, Head of Health Protection at the PHA, said: “As lockdowns ease in different ways either side of the border, we really want people to continue to exercise caution and restraint to help limit the spread of coronavirus. Some border communities have seen high levels of COVID-19 infection during the pandemic, so we need to act responsibly to help keep case numbers down and ultimately save lives.
“We know there is a temptation to travel either side of the border to engage in activities as lockdowns ease, but if we see large number gathering or people abandoning public health advice, we could see cases rise significantly on both sides of the border. Viruses don’t recognise borders, so we all need to act with caution.
“Sticking to public health advice and behaving responsibility is the best way to help keep COVID-19 case numbers down and ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of easing lockdowns as safely as possible.”
The PHA and HSE are warning that if we collectively fail to stick to public health guidance, viral transmission will increase and we will inevitably see increased cases reappear – no-one wants lockdown measures being reintroduced, so everyone has a responsibility to continue to adhere to the guidance.
Dr Anthony Breslin, Director of Public Health for HSE North West, said: “The key advice around getting vaccinated when eligible, washing your hands, keeping your distance and wearing a face covering when appropriate still apply. By sticking to these steps, we can help ensure that as restrictions ease, we can enjoy the benefits while also keeping ourselves and those around us safe on both sides of the border.
“It is also important not to move beyond what the guidelines permit at any given time or to take advantage of differing circumstances either side of the border in a way which could increase risk.
“We also shouldn’t become complacent as vaccination continues to be rolled out. Vaccines have an important role to play, but can never provide 100% protection, which is why the other public health steps are still important.
“The opportunities we have for more normality are a positive, but could very quickly become a negative again if we put ourselves and others at risk by forgetting about the key steps to help stay safe. The last thing we want is to see restrictions being reintroduced, so it is important that every one of us does what we can to avoid that.”
The core advice around what we can do to reduce our risk of getting COVID-19 or passing it on has been in place since the start of the pandemic and it is really important that we continue to follow these steps as we society starts to open up again:
Wear a face covering indoors where social distancing isn’t possible, or where it’s required, such as in shops, shopping centres, taxis, public transport and banks.
It is also essential to wear a face covering properly and to handle it appropriately with clean, or else it won’t provide the maximum level of protection.
You should also maintain a social distance of at least 2m (around 6ft) between you and anyone outside of your household, to minimise your exposure to the virus and reduce the potential of spreading the infection.
It is also important to wash your hands properly, as this is one of the most effective things you can do to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Wash hands regularly, and use sanitiser outside your home when hand washing isn’t possible
If you are indoors, try to keep the area well-ventilated.
If you sneeze or cough, ‘catch it, bin it, kill it.’
Dr Waldron concluded: “The advice is simple, but it’s there for a reason – to help keep us and those around us safe. Don’t take unnecessary risks, exercise common sense, and take every step available to help protect yourself, your loved ones and communities on both side of the border.
“Let’s all make sure we do what we can to stay safe.”