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Health Minister responds to Executive decision on public health regulations

Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed a conclusion to this week’s Executive discussions on Covid-19 regulations. The Minister said that while there are signs of hope on the horizon, the next few months will remain “extremely challenging”. He appealed to everyone to keep fighting back against Covid-19. Pushing down rates of infection will protect hospitals and care homes and also allow us to have a better Christmas.

Mr Swann said: “It is no secret that I wanted a different outcome from the Executive. However, the decision today is preferable to restrictions falling and all hospitality opening this weekend.  I could not countenance the consequences of that happening.

“I have been frank with the public throughout. This is going to be an incredibly tough winter for us all – especially our health and social care system and all those who depend on it and work in it.

“I want to again thank everyone for the sacrifices they are making.

“There are undoubtedly signs of hope on the horizon – in terms of progress on a vaccine, increased testing and improved treatments.

“But the vaccine is not here yet and is not guaranteed.  Please do not let your guard down now.  Let’s keep on the right path and get through this together.

“I am an optimist and I know this will end and we will get through it.  However, I also don’t want to offer false hope to anyone. The current situation is extremely challenging and will remain so throughout the winter.

“Restrictions on our daily lives will have to continue to help stop the spread of the virus. If I have to recommend further interventions to the Executive to prevent vital services being overwhelmed, I will not hesitate to do so.

“My job is to protect the health service and the health of the population.

“We can all play our part in driving down infection rates. That means acting responsibly and following public health advice – keeping our distance and reducing our contacts, wearing a face covering and washing our hands.

If we all keep doing this, it will save lives. It will get us to a better place and allow us to enjoy some level of normality and festive spirit this Christmas.

“The greater the burden Covid places on our health service, the fewer resources we have to treat other conditions. Rising infections in the community also bring increased risks for care homes.

“The best way of protecting the vulnerable in our community and all our health services is to keep levels of Covid transmission at the lowest possible level.

“I appreciate the frustrations voiced publicly in recent days by members of the business community. I share many of them.  To anyone in hospitality who is threatening to re-open in breach of the regulations, I would say think again.  There are moral as well as legal obligations here – especially with regards to the safety of customers and staff.”