Our communities across Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim have been living with the COVID-19 pandemic for the past six months. We have all dealt with the very severe restrictions of the earlier “lockdown” measures that seen our lives, society and the wider economy almost brought to a standstill. It was those severe measures, done in the interest of public health and keeping people safe that guided our region through the first peak of COVID and kept the spread of the virus to a minimum. We have had several weeks of low transmission and our economy has re-opened across most sectors. The past month has been very busy with visitors in the northwest region and there is a sense of some return to normality. It is well acknowledged that people are tired of living with such restrictions and they can only take so much. The huge compliance by most people is also acknowledged and appreciated.
The three public sector bodies in the North West of An Gardai, HSE and the County Councils for Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim have been working together throughout this pandemic response. They meet regularly and co-ordinate actions in response to the current and emerging situation.
At this time the group would like to raise the need to re-double efforts by each person in our community to help protect each person and the gains that we have made fighting the COVID virus. We have come a long way together and we now need to avoid any sense of complacency or irresponsibility as we potentially face a second wave of infection in the northwest region. This is really important to avoid people getting ill from COVID 19 and the potential for our health systems in the North West becoming over-whelmed.
The three public sector bodies would like to highlight the following:
1. Each adult must take personal responsibility for themselves and the people around them. The measures to be taken are well known at this stage. It is appropriate to “call-out” bad behaviour and to do so in a positive way.
2. Businesses have been struggling through this period. Many have obtained government supports and many have re-opened in a very trying economic climate. All business are required to follow the public health advice and implement the measures to keep their employees and customers safe. Again the measures are well known. Most businesses have made investments, and sacrifices to meet the public health requirements and they are to be thanked for that. It is disappointing that some businesses have not taken the measures and have put their employees and customers at risk. There have been cases where this has led to COVID outbreaks. These businesses have had to be shut down. They have put people in danger directly and have also put the wider economy at risk of a regional lockdown. The irresponsible actions of a few can affect many. Customers should expect to see proper measures in place and should not accept anything less. They should only frequent places where measures are in place and they themselves feel comfortable and safe.
3. There has been an increase in house parties and in specific cases this has led to significant out-breaks in the northwest region, again putting the region, society and economy at further risk of a lockdown and the potential for severe health affects. The public health guidance on gatherings is there for a reason – to keep us all safe. It must be followed.
The enforcement bodies are very active visiting premises and locations and will take all appropriate actions up to and including prosecution if warranted. However, enforcement will only bring results in a limited way and fighting COVID-19 requires a “whole of society” response. We appeal to everyone to follow the public health advice, implement the well known safety measures, take personal responsibility and help keep everyone safe.
Lastly, we remember all those who have died from COVID, many of whom were not in a position to fight it themselves and depended on the wider community around them. It is against this backdrop that we ask everyone to do what they can.