Platform piece by Health Minister Robin Swann
All across Northern Ireland, individuals, families and communities are rising to the immense challenges created by social distancing.
It needs to be stressed that the vast majority of people are doing the right thing.
I want to thank them publicly and to acknowledge how tough it is to stay at home and keep your distance from others.
However there has been a lot of attention on the small minority who have not followed the public health advice.
It is essential that these tight restrictions are rigorously maintained in the weeks ahead. Quite simply, lives depend on it.
So, let me appeal to everyone not to slip back into old habits. Any signs of complacency and impatience must be strongly resisted.
Our actions now will impact on the spread of coronavirus in future weeks.
Don’t lose heart or think the measures aren’t working just because of the current numbers and trends.
What we are doing now is aimed at future weeks – slowing the spread of the virus and flattening its peak by drastically reducing human contact. That’s how we protect each other and protect our health service.
We all have to stick with it, to get through this together.
I make no apology for re-stating the vital advice once again.
Stay at home. Please.
Only go out if it’s absolutely necessary and, if you do, make sure you keep your distance from others.
Wash your hands, thoroughly. When you sneeze or cough, use a tissue and then dispose of it – catch it, bin it, kill it.
As a prominent doctor said in recent days, we can all be heroes.
When we get through this as a society – which we will – you will want to look back and say you played your full part in fighting back against COVID-19.
I know very well the anxiety being felt across the community. I’m feeling exactly the same way - as a husband, a father and a son.
But we have grounds for hope and positivity, alongside the deep apprehension.
Social distancing will make a major difference – if we keep doing it right and doing it together.
Let’s take heart from the way people from all walks of life are coming forward to provide essential help.
Our HSC workforce appeal is seeking new recruits to our health and social care workforce during the pandemic.
Within a few short days of the appeal going live online, more than 10,000 people had signed up to register their interest in taking on roles.
And there is large scale community-level volunteering going on, helping older and other vulnerable people cope during these difficult times. The Department for Communities is playing a key role in this area.
When we look back, I hope we will remember how this crisis brought out the best in us; how neighbours and strangers alike stepped up to help their fellow citizens in a time of grave need.
When this is over, we will have a lot of rebuilding to do. Grief-stricken families, shattered lives, the economic and social fabric of society permanently altered.
The collective spirit being forged right now will stand us in good stead.