PHA: as restrictions ease, essential to stick to advice to help keep everyone safe

COVID-19 coronavirus

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people to stick to key public health advice as restrictions ease as the best way to help keep COVID-19 case numbers down and ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits as safely as possible.

The agency is emphasising a potentially stark 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 Stephen Bergin, Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “Everyone is looking forward to returning to some form of normality as we start to reopen and move out of lockdown. It’s great that we will be able to do more things and spend time with family and friends, but I would really urge everyone to avoid complacency – 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.

“It is also important not to move beyond what the guidelines permit at any given time – the phasing has been designed to ease us out of lockdown, but as we saw last autumn, cases can escalate very quickly, over just a few weeks, so we need everyone to work within what the Executive is allowing so it can be sustained.

“The sacrifices we have all made during this lockdown have made a difference – infection rates are generally low, although the virus is still circulating. Combined with the ongoing roll-out of the vaccination programme, we are now in a better place, but it remains as important as ever to continue following the rules. 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 Bergin continued: “Many of us are eager to take advantage of the easing of restrictions to get out into the open air. The opportunity to do so, and to meet limited friends and family, is good for our mental and physical wellbeing, but we must behave safely and responsibly. Restrictions are only beginning to ease – make yourself aware of the rules around gatherings and travel as we move through the next few weeks. Unnecessary social mixing will spread the virus and undo everyone’s hard work so while it might be tempting to gather in large groups of friends and family, it is important to stick to the rules.

“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 the community.

“Let’s all make sure we do what we can to stay safe.”

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