Leading article

As lockdown eases, we must continue to act responsibly

The fact that the executive is in a position to introduce further easing of the lockdown is a positive sign although it must be acknowledged that hard won gains can be quickly undone if people push the boundaries too far.

Ministers had signalled that steps including the reopening of large non-food retailers such as car showrooms and outdoor sports facilities, would be permitted if the R number, which indicates the rate of infection, remained below one.

It was revealed yesterday that the rate is now between 0.7 and 0.9 which must be regarded as encouraging news and it is essential we keep those numbers as low as possible.

While there will be a sense of relief that some retailers are free to open it is not entirely clear which shops fall within the revised regulations.

Debenhams yesterday became the latest big name to announce it will reopen and that comes after Ikea opened its doors to customers this week.

The expectation is that more businesses will gradually follow suit and although it is important that we get the economy going again, unfortunately the shadow of coronavirus is ever present.

Employers have a duty to ensure their staff and customers are kept safe and we are all now familiar with socially distanced queues and protective screens.

The public can also help to reduce the spread of the virus by following the recommendation on wearing face coverings in shops or while using public transport.

Stormont's chief scientific adviser, Professor Ian Young, is urging people to use masks in enclosed spaces however it is fair to say that the number of people following this advice appears to be low.

As we move out of lockdown and begin to return to normal activities it is imperative that everyone acts responsibly and helps to avoid a second wave of infection.

It is perfectly understandable that people wish to protest at the appalling death of George Floyd, an indefensible act that has placed a spotlight on deepseated racism in the US, but it has to be recognised that any large gatherings risk spreading the virus.

With a second rally planned for Belfast at the weekend, people must be mindful of the rules on social distancing, which are there to protect us all.

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Leading article