McGrath Says Unprecedented Times Means Unprecedented Action.
SDLP MLA Colin McGrath has called for the public to work together and conform with the guidance from different lead agencies in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus which could bring many deaths to the Down area.
Commenting on the current situation to Down News in a comprehensive statement, the South Down MLA said: “This is an unprecedented time. We have never before in living memory faced such an existential crisis.
“We are facing the prospect of up to 80% of people catching this virus with its impact upon older people and those with underlying illnesses potential life-threatening.
“The measures to manage the prevention of the spread of this virus are difficult but achievable. It is about maintain social distancing, only leaving the house if you have to and washing your hands often and when you can.
“This situation requires everyone to step up to the mark – without exception. Everyone must play their part, do their best and stop this virus from spreading further.
“Legislation is passing through the Assembly and Westminster this week and I will be there to offer my support to it which will provide a whole range of tools for the NI Executive to use to be able to contain, manage and then eradicate this virus.
“Some of these tools would be deeply unacceptable in normal times. Large fines to business, curtailment of social activities and punishment for gathering in small groups – but needs must and we are in a crisis situation and this must be the new norm for the next several months.
“I will be monitoring the situation as it develops and call on full public support and cooperation. It is only when we all pull together and work as one that we will save lives. This may seem like it is an Armageddon Hollywood movie – but it is our new reality and we must all play the part of the hero.”
Health care workers are true angels.
Colin McGrath said that those working in the health care sector are like angels and the work that will be demanded off them in the weeks ahead will be gruelling.
Commenting, the South Down MLA added: “I want to place on record my praise and regard for the healthcare workers who are going above and beyond the call of duty for people at this time.
They are preparing our hospitals, gathering the resources and applying a massive effort for the greater good. They are heroes and we thank each and every one of them from consultants to nursing staff, porters to the community health care staff.
“They are going the extra mile for us and it is truest appreciated
“It is imperative though that they have the correct resources for their work. It is sad to here that many cannot get the basic equipment they need to undertake their work. We need our staff to have the correct masks, gloves, wipes etc – collectively known as Personal Protectiv Equipment (PPE). They must have these resources to be able to keep them safe and to keep the public safe too. We cannot have officials preach for cleanliness and safety to the greater public and then not provide their own staff with the correct resources.
“This extends to community services too. I understand that staff are being left to do home visits in the community and they have limited PPE available to them. People in our community are having up to four visits a day from different care workers and the most protection they have is a hand-wipe. This is unacceptable and I have written to the Minister and Department to ask for this to be addressed.
Older and vulnerable people
“We must look out for our older and vulnerable neighbours.
People should assess their local areas and look out for their older and vulnerable neighbours who may need extra help and assistance at this time
“Many of our older and vulnerable family and neighbours will be very worried at this time. They will be concerned about what they can and cannot do and will be confused with the many messages.
“NHS England has written to many suggesting complete self-isolation for 12 weeks. This is likely to follow here in Northern Ireland and people should consider what the needs of their older neighbours might be. They may need assistance with shopping and getting personal items. This must be done safely too as you do not want to bring the virus to them. Following guidelines is important.
“I would call on everyone to assess the area immediately around them and determine is there anyone who is older or vulnerable who may need help and assistance to seat step up to the mark and check if they need any help.”
Better social distancing
“A breach of Social Distancing guidelines is worrying.
“The scale of people breaching the social distancing guidelines is massive and worrying.
“I am very concerned at the total disrespect that many are showing to the social distancing rules.
“I received dozens of calls this weekend from concerned people who viewed many of our public spaces – beaches, parks and streets at the weekend in near ‘holiday mode’. With bustling crowds and many families and older people too there were many are walking round in groups, standing close to people in queues and even slipping into pubs by the back doors at a time of this major public crisis.
“Many of these individuals risk passing on the virus to others without realizing it and it is this massive act of selfishness that is most difficult to accept.
“The concept of ‘I don’t care about passing the virus to others’ is unacceptable. People must accept and realise that the social distancing rule is to stop you getting the virus but even if you don’t care about that it is to stop you passing on the virus to others – especially the older and vulnerable members of our community.
“I demand, on behalf of the majority of people, that you stop breaching these rules and stick to the guidance of social distancing!
“Do we need lockdown?”
McGrath Says ‘Lockdown May be Inevitable and Necessary’ .
Colin McGrath MLA has said that given the inability of many to adhere to the social distancing rules and the use of some of this time as an almost holiday will lead to tougher rules and inevitably a lockdown scenario.
“If people do not adhere to the social distancing rules then I would lead the call for further action and a total lockdown.
“If people are not capable of following simple rules then we must see a situation where people are told exactly what they can and cannot do and where they can and cannot go.
“It is sad that this will have to be considered and that people will have to be instructed, but it is a case that people are displaying an unwillingness to follow the rules.
“Lockdown in other countries means that people are not permitted to leave their house expect for certain occasions – such as dog walking, going to the shop etc. Anyone who goes out at other times will be subject to fines and/or arrest and businesses and organsitions that don’t follow the guidance will be subject of fines up to £100k.
“These are draconian measures but these are desperate times and in order to save lives such action will be required.
Schools and Education.
“The handling of Education Sector in this crisis has been shoddy.
“The flow of information, timing of closures and rules regarding key-workers children has been handled badly and the public and education sector are upset and confused.
“The handling of the school estate at this dire time has been messy to say the least.
“The Department has been well out of step with the community on this matter and it has taken too long to move to shut down. I welcome that schools are now closed as we know it and are simply providing a care facility for children of key-workers but even this move is not without controversy.
“Staff have contacted me to say they are worried about their extra exposure to the virus and have asked for help and assistance. They say they are concerned about trying to implement social distancing with children as young as four and feel the lack of testing being available to them is unfair and runs the risk of spreading the virus further,
“I believe that our Executive should have looked further at other places such as Italy, Spain and the South to see what they were doing and to replicate that model rather than concocting their own mis-mash which has left people feeling vulnerable.”
“We must see more testing and screening now.
“There must be a complete upscaling of the number of tests that are available for the public adding that not to do so could contribute to the spread of the virus
“I am calling on the department of Health to improve the capabilities for testing immediately. We are lagging well behind all other European countries at this time and I believe that there is a greater spread of the virus than we know because we are not testing.
“How can people know to self-isolate if they do not know that they have the virus? For many the virus will be mild, with symptoms barely recognizable but yet such people are moving around our community at this time – potentially spreading this illness to others.
“We need to ramp up our capability for testing and see an immediate programme of testing within our communities that lets anyone worried be tested and the results known quickly.
“I am also concerned that the lack of testing is skewing the overall statistics and figures and not letting the public have a true picture of what is happening.
“This lack of testing is tantamount to burying your head in the sand, refusing to accept the scale of the problem.
“Knowledge is power in the battle against this virus and therefore we must know who has it and that means extra testing now.”
Package for the self employed.
“The Self-Employed feel feft behind in the crisis response.
“Those in the self-employed sector are feeling left out of the help and assistance that is being offered in the response to the Covid-19 crisis.
“There have been many announcements from the chancellor in London in the past week to help mitigate against the economic crisis. This has been welcome and it is good news for employees in the private sector that they will be able to receive 80% of their wages from the government. This will help many people in our area rest easier.
“I welcome too the news that there will be business support available with certain businesses being able to get a £10k payment to help them at this time. This will be a life line to the small business sector and is very welcome.
“However there has been no mention to date of any assistance for the self-employed sector. These are the people who step up and take the personal risk to open their company or their business and the irony now is that their staff can be paid up to 80% of their salary but the boss has to go on to Universal Credit.
“This is an untenable situation and I have been calling for better and improved help and assistance for the self-employed. I hope that this will happen this week so that there can be solace to the self-employed and an affirmation that this is merit and help to the self-employed sector.”