Our actions now will have a crucial bearing on the direction of the Covid-19 pandemic this summer, Health Minister Robin Swann has emphasised.
The Minister was commenting on concerns across these islands about the spread of the Delta variant of the virus.
While the number of confirmed Delta cases remain relatively low in NI, experience in other jurisdictions indicates that this could change very rapidly.
In the event of the Delta variant becoming dominant, modelling indicates the potential for a surge of positive cases and hospitalisations by late summer/early autumn.
Mr Swann stated: “This is not inevitable. There are many uncertainties and we are far from powerless. We need a sustained effort in the coming weeks to stop the virus spreading. Our actions now will have a crucial bearing on how the situation develops.
“We can defend and sustain the progress we have all achieved over recent months. The ongoing roll-out of our vaccination programme is central to that. It essential that people keep coming forward for their first and second vaccine doses. The emerging evidence indicates that getting fully vaccinated with both doses is very important in terms of protection from the Delta variant.
“The more people we can get fully vaccinated, the better prepared we will be for any upturn in Covid cases down the line.
“Alongside vaccination, we must all keep following the basics – hands, face, space and fresh air. Social distancing, face covering and hand washing are as vital as ever, as is avoiding crowded and cramped indoor spaces with poor ventilation. If you have Covid symptoms, you must self-isolate and get tested.
“Get both your vaccine doses and keep following tried and tested public health advice to stop the virus spreading.
“This how we protect each other, protect the health service and protect our pathway back to normality. This is how we protect society, protect the economy, protect consumer confidence and help keep customers and staff safe in hospitality and retail.
“This not a time for either complacency or alarmism. Caution must remain our guiding principle.”