The figures, which follow weeks of sustained decline in deaths, provide significant hope that the worst of this wave of the virus is past.
The Republic of Ireland today reported nine more deaths and nine more confirmed cases, while the UK death toll rose by 286.
However, the Health Minister, Robin Swann, said that he made no apology for continuing to be cautious, quoting the scripture: ”Do not boast about tomorrow because you do not know what a day may bring.”
He said if a second wave is not to be as serious as the first then it may be possible to manage it in a different way, but warned if the health service becomes threatened, “then our only option is to go back into a second lockdown”.
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When asked by the News Letter about the Irish government’s more aggressive moves towards ending lockdown, the Ulster Unionist minister appeared reluctant to criticise what is happening south of the border, despite his own message of caution.
However, he said that during a meeting of the Executive, the Irish government and the secretary of state he raised the fact that the Republic “moved without giving us a lot of consultation as to their movements”.
That, he said, “puts our Executive into a place where it seems that we should be playing catch-up where in fact we’re not; we were always clear from the start that our programme was not being date-led, but it would be led by where the coronavirus is in Northern Ireland and where the science is.
“So in regards to the reaction of the Irish Republic’s government – that’s up to them to take their decisions as to where they see their virus [sic]; I think the Executive in Northern Ireland is taking a measured, cautious approach ...”
A similar complaint arose last month as the Irish government announced its plan to move out of lockdown.
At the time, a senior Irish government source told the News Letter that there was confusion in Dublin at the claim that Stormont was not being kept informed of developments. However, that Stormont frustration has been aired by multiple parties now for a second time.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted that he did inform Stormont ahead of Friday’s announcement on a faster end to restrictions.
Mr Swann said he believed there were “strategic and creative ways” in which the hospitality sector could reopen.
He referred to the possibility of “a cafe-style approach where people are actually outdoors”, adding: “We already know that the spread of the virus is so much more manageable outdoors than it is indoors ... let’s get creative, let’s look at how collaboratively the Executive, working together with local councils and the hospitality sector, can look at some of those easements and bring back some of those services.
“But I would be seriously concerned that we rush into them. I want them done in a managed, respectful, measured approach so that it doesn’t help the spread of the virus within Northern Ireland.”
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