Letters to the Editor

Success of face masks is guaranteed if they become mandatory

It was with great delight to read the front page headline of  The Irish News (May 8) – ‘Stormont says cover your face’.
The issue of face masks has been up for discussion on numerous occasions and every time the public are put off with experts claiming they are of little benefit, makes no difference to being susceptible to  catching covid-19 and that face masks are no substitute to good hygiene procedures and following social distancing. Their argument being the public would get complacent with the hand washing and social distancing thinking they are protected with a face covering.
The experts are also of the opinion that masks should be left for healthcare workers and fear members of the public buying face masks en masse from Amazon, which from my own shopping  experience, face masks/coverings are widely available.   

I am an avid supporter of face masks/coverings for all sections of the population and not just in enclosed spaces where social distancing is impossible, such as public transport and retail outlets.
However, the wearing of face masks/coverings should enhance what we are already doing with the hand washing/sanitising, not touching our faces or masks and still practice social distancing staying two metres away from people. Therefore, instead of encouraging complacency the face covering should be a complement of our present activities and indeed, act as a confidence builder when we make our first tentative steps out of lockdown.

Now in our eighth week of lockdown with the population at large so terrorised with catching Covid-19, being hospitalised and dying from it, coronaphobia is the contagion sweeping the nation – the pathogen being a constant diet of news, daily updates and social media.
If truth be told, the public are anxious upon leaving lockdown and a mandatory face covering would aid in people’s return to our new normality.  It is said that people who are ill with Covid-19 or asymptomatic should wear a face mask.
The problem is often people do not know they have it or the symptoms are too mild.  However, if we all wore face coverings by law then that covers those who are asymptomatic or with only mild symptoms from spreading the illness.  It would be a case of “I protect you, you
protect me”.

Face coverings are essential to slow the spread of Covid-19 as lockdown restrictions commence to be relaxed.  However, their success is guaranteed if they become mandatory for everyone.

Belfast BT10


We should be managing green space to create corridors of wild flowers

The Coronavirus pandemic has led many of us to experience a new found or renewed appreciation of nature. If you’re lucky enough to live beside green space you may have noticed the emergence of patches of wild flowers, with councils unable to ‘maintain’ these public spaces.

On this, World Bee Day, wild flower patches like the one close to Whiterock Leisure Centre are a place of refuge for bees - vital considering that 97 per cent of our wild flower meadows have been destroyed since the 1930s.

I was disappointed to see that the field of wild flowers near to the leisure centre had been mowed in the past few days. Gone was the sheltered micro climate for insects – the nutrition for bees, the place where butterflies could lay eggs and birds could feed on seeds.

We have 97 species of wild bees in Ireland, all of which need to feed on pollen and nectar between March-October. At present, more than one-third of these 97 species are threatened with extinction, and the fact we are building upon or mowing away their food source is a contributing factor.

Once we lose these pollinator species from the Irish landscape they cannot be returned. The ecological but also human impact of losing them would be devastating. The free service they provide to pollinator dependant crops such as apples for example is worth £7 million to the economy.

Belfast City Council is a partner in the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. In 2017, Belfast Zoo  became stewards of a colony of 2,000 black honeybees.

Why are we cutting down wild flowers in one place then purporting to protect bees in others?

Management of green spaces is necessary. In fact we should be managing our green spaces to create clusters and corridors of wild flowers. To help bees survive, experts recommend we should not mow and let it grow until August/September.

This could provide cost savings and allow for council staff to be redeployed to frontline services. We may help save our bees and provide a bit more colour in our neighbourhoods at the same time.

So don’t mow – let it grow.

Belfast BT12


Health care shambles

The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated just how unprepared a lot of western countries/governments were to cope with this health crisis. Most were slow to react while others dithered and procrastinated, garnering a ‘herd mentality’ as a solution to the woes about to be inflicted. The outcome could have been a lot worse had the assembly adhered to Arlene Foster’s advocacy of following Boris Johnson’s  advice. As the virus ‘apparently’ ran rampant in the north – with care homes, the old, the sick and vulnerable members of society bearing the brunt –  Robin Swann chose to update the assembly on his progress as health minister. He outlined how the ‘health system had been run down in Northern Ireland and was unable to cope when the pandemic struck’. One can only assume Mr Swann is referring to his predecessors who abandoned their posts and shipped over to Westminster where confusion and mayhem ensued.

Did the DUP hierarchy champion the need to curb hospital waiting lists and revamp of the health service? Seemingly this was not on their list of priorities.

Belfast BT1


Physics of climate change undeniable

Unlike Covid-19 we will be unable to self-isolate and await a vaccine or medical drugs to accommodate a lifestyle that is unsustainable.

Nature has issued a strident warning and mankind needs to abandon its greedy and ruthless exploitation of the oceans, forests and natural world.

Governments have an opportunity to rebuild and reshape economies towards greener growth. Wind and solar power investment must be hugely increased. Grants, subsidies and tax breaks to large polluting sectors and companies must be curtailed.

Covid has caused many human deaths and great distress but yet nature is thriving. Pollution levels reduced in all major cities and the birdsong is magical.

Total environmental collapse could obliterate the world’s population. Drought-rising sea levels, major forest infernos and violent tropical storms cannot be controlled.

Is any government or political leader alert to this ominous 2020 warning?

Craigavon, Co Armagh

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Letters to the Editor