Carmel Mullaney says two years of restrictions is a test of endurance we are not used to, but we have risen to the challenge
Christmas is one of the most special times of the year. It is an opportunity to celebrate with our nearest and dearest, and a time of reunion after months of separation as a result of the pandemic. This week, many of us will enjoy this much-needed distraction after one of the most challenging years of our lives.
The people of the South East region have well and truly led by example in the nation’s fight against this virus that has claimed so many lives, and has disrupted everyday society. The resilience and resolve of everyone in Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford, and Wexford needs to be commended and remembered.
When we urged the public to adhere to unprecedented restrictions during the third wave, you listened and acted, breaking chains of transmission, and saved lives in your community as a result.
We stepped up to the task when asked to register for our Covid-19 vaccines, and more than 90% of the adult population in the region signed up and got fully-vaccinated, saving so many lives once more. The production of a safe, effective vaccine of this scale and in such a short space of time is one of the greatest public health successes of our lifetime. This success would not have become a reality without your collective response.
In addition to praising the actions of the public, I want to particularly mention our heroes on the frontline across all our public services, and the essential workers who kept crucial services open so we could all be safe and secure.
Two years of restrictions is a test of endurance we are not used to, but we all rose to the challenge, nonetheless. We cannot deny the fatigue and frustration felt by everyone, and this is naturally compounded by a lot of uncertainty, particularly as we closely watch the emergence of the Omicron variant of concern.
But despite this uncertainty, there is a lot we can do in our daily lives to stop this virus. The basic public health measures work, and my team and I have seen this across all settings over the past 20 months. These include wearing a face mask, maintaining a social distance, washing hands frequently, avoiding crowded areas, reducing social activity and contacts, and ventilating social and work spaces.
The Covid-19 vaccine and the booster programme has not only saved numerous lives in vulnerable settings, such as nursing homes and residential care facilities, but it has significantly reduced the number of cases and outbreaks in the community. Breakthrough infections with serious outcomes can still occur, so it is essential that we avail of our booster shot as soon as possible.
Amid the current high level of disease circulating in the community, and the emergence of the more easily transmitted Omicron variant, it is incumbent on us to ensure we look after others close to us. If you are feeling unwell, please do not socialise with others, isolate at home, and arrange a free PCR test immediately. If you have cold-like symptoms, a negative antigen test is not enough to rule out Covid-19. Assume it is Covid-19, isolate, and get a PCR test.
As we reach the end of 2021, you should be proud of everything you did to protect yourself and loved ones around you. And while there will be further challenges down the line, we can look back with a sense of achievement, and look forward to what we can achieve together in 2022.
The Department of Public Health South East wishes you all a safe and happy Christmas, and we look forward to working with and for you in the New Year.
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