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Heroic health workers must be protected

There will be a clear understanding that the latest stringent regulations in the fight against Covid-19 which were announced firstly by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and then by the Stormont Executive represent absolutely essential measures which need to be fully respected by the general public across Ireland.

Mr Varadkar said on Friday night that what happens next in the pandemic is up to each and every of us and urged people to show that they care by staying at home.

Northern Ireland ministers sent out a very similar message the following evening, and all the indications last night were that ordinary citizens were responding in a strongly positive way.

The grim coronavirus statistics were still rising sharply yesterday, with a further six deaths in the north and 14 in the south bringing the all Ireland total to 57.

It is inevitable that these tragic figures will continue to increase steadily in the coming days, with traumatic human consequences for the entire community.

The vast majority of individuals who contract the virus are likely to make a full recovery, and, thanks to the heroic efforts of our health workers, many of the more serious cases will also be successfully treated.

However, the least that nurses and other front line staff are entitled to expect is that they will be provided with highly specialised and effective protective clothing.

Reports yesterday which suggested that almost a quarter of those infected in the Republic so far are health staff made absolutely chilling reading.

The interview with Pat Cullen, the Northern Ireland director of the Royal College of Nursing, which was published in The Irish News on Saturday, deserves to be particularly closely studied.

Ms Cullen starkly set out the fears of her colleagues that the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they have been receiving to date is simply not fit for purpose.

When nurses ask openly if they need to make their wills before going on duty, their concerns need to be treated with the utmost seriousness by the authorities.

It has already been made clear that a significant consignment of PPE has been ordered from China, and, to safeguard our incredibly brave health workers, it is vital that it should be dispatched and distributed as swiftly as possible.

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