‘Massive effort has got us this far’ - Swann
Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed the Executive’s decision to ease a number of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Minister said “cautious optimism” is the best approach to dealing with the current phase of the pandemic.
“Thanks to a massive effort across Northern Ireland, the worst fears about the Omicron variant have not been realised. I want to pay tribute to everyone who has followed public health advice and helped us get to this point.
“The progress we have made is due in no small part to the rapid acceleration of the booster programme before Christmas. This roll-out was achieved by a health system and staff facing unprecedented pressures, supported by many volunteers. The pressures on the health service remain severe and I would again appeal to everyone to do all they can to help it get through the remainder of this winter.
“As I said to staff directly this week, the fact our health service is still standing at all is down to their heroic efforts. They will continue to experience those sustained pressures for some time yet.
“Please keep supporting them by avoiding any actions that would further destabilise the health system. Keep wearing a face covering, working from home if possible and taking all the other steps that help prevent the virus spreading. This is certainly not the time to throw caution to the wind. That would increase case numbers again, intensify pressures on the health service and set us back significantly in the progress we have been making.
“Cautious optimism will serve us best as we look towards a better future. There are still major uncertainties with this pandemic including the potential for a secondary peak in the coming days and weeks. We must stick to the approach that has produced dividends. That includes ongoing efforts to get more people boosted and vaccinated.”
The Minister added: “Let us not lose sight of the scale of the Omicron surge here in recent weeks. We significantly mitigated the impact, thanks to the efforts of the general public, the vaccination programme, the dedication and expertise of our health service workers, and proportionate policy decisions at Executive level.
“We must remain ready for all eventualities, while planning for further easing of restrictions just as soon as the situation allows.”
From tomorrow, the required self-isolation period after a positive COVID-19 test will be reduced. Positive cases can leave isolation on day six, providing they have had two negative lateral flow tests, at least 24 hours apart, no earlier than day five and day six.
This change has been introduced by the Department of Health, following detailed consideration by medical and policy officials including input from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser.