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Our health and social care system will only be able to cope with Covid-19 if we all rally behind it

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That is the message from Health Minister Robin Swann as major social distancing practices take effect in Northern Ireland.

The Minister said: “I have already said that we are facing into the biggest societal challenge in our lifetime. We all owe so much to those working right across health and social care. They are the best of us and they are going to be dealing with pressures that were unimaginable just weeks ago. We are significantly ramping up the system’s capacity to cope with the anticipated surge in patients. Details of the first phase of Trust surge plans will be published on Thursday.

“We are also working to significantly increase our testing capacity, so that we can support testing of health and social care workers. Obviously, there is uncertainty and fear in the community, given the rapid escalation of the social distancing measures. An immediate priority is the updating of detailed guidance to key sectors.

“Everyone must follow public health advice, including the advice issued yesterday on social distancing. We all must continue to rigidly follow the advice on hand-washing and ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ when we cough or sneeze and use a tissue. These are not optional extras. They will help slow the spread of Covid-19 and keep more of our family members, neighbours and friends well. The more people stay well, the less pressure on our health service. To put it bluntly, doing the right thing is essential if the health service is to get through this.

“I would also again urge everyone to be patient with staff who are working through unprecedented pressures. Normal business in our health service will not be possible for months. Please respect and give space to nurses, doctors, pharmacists, social care staff, all those answering phones and everyone working across the system. I am hearing disturbing reports of examples of abusive behaviour. This has to stop and stop now.”

Minister Swann concluded: “I am also heartened by all the examples of communities and neighbourhoods rallying round and supporting older and vulnerable citizens. We need that collective spirit in abundance – a society-wide and Government-wide approach. Severe restrictions on our everyday life will be needed for months, not weeks. We will have to not only shield people from Covid-19, but from the economic and social consequences of the measures we are taking.”

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