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Editorial: Responsible approach needed as Covid surges

It is clear we are in the midst of yet another surge in Covid infections, yet the official response to this latest spike is in marked contrast to earlier waves.

Figures published on Friday show that an estimated 71,000 people - or one in 25 - in Northern Ireland had been hit by the virus, up from 59,900 - or one in 30 - the previous week.

The number of cases has risen sharply across the UK, where 2.3 million people in private households are estimated to have had Covid in the week ending June 24, according to the Office of National Statistics.

We are told that the surge in cases is being driven by the growth of Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, which are said to be highly infectious.

The Republic is also seeing a similar spike in infections and has experienced a rise in the number of people with the virus in hospital.

This surge is having a widespread impact on many areas of life and work. It is very likely that many of us will have had Covid or know a family member, neighbour or work colleague who has contracted the virus in the past few weeks.

In recent days, a Covid spike among staff led to the cancellation of several Aer Lingus flights, adding to what has been an already difficult period for air travel.

Despite the high level of cases, there is no sense that we could see a return to the restrictions that were put in place in the face of earlier waves.

While health minister Robin Swann last week announced a one-month extension to the availability of lateral flow tests, we also saw the easing of other measures.

The self isolation period after a positive test has been reduced to five days while the contact tracing service has been formally stood down. However, people with Covid are advised to avoid contact with those who are at risk for ten days.

Mr Swann said his updated advice sought to 'strike the right balance' between reducing transmission, protecting the vulnerable and mitigating the disruption caused by longer periods of isolation.

It is evident that we are entering a new phase in the approach to Covid, with an acceptance that it is going to be with us for some time.

But there is also a need for people to act responsibly, follow the official advice and help to reduce the transmission of the virus.

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