Covid-19 rears its head in Newcastle, County Down, and local politicians call for government to assist and for people on the ground to be vigilant and take adequate hygiene precautions.
As we come out of an official period of lockdown, Covid-19 is still potentially a killer lurking in the wings in our communities and we must take every precaution to help minimise its impact.
The recent increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the Newcastle suggests that a flare up might be happening and a worst case scenarion, a lockdown, could have devastating effects on local businesses.
County Down politicians have quickly rallied round the people of the Newcastle area calling on immediate government support on the ground and encouraging essential hygiene practice by everyone.
This virus is here for the long haul and it is possible we will see more outbreaks at local level over the autumn in County Down.
Hazzard requests urgent action on Newcastle cluster.
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has requested urgent action by health authorities following a cluster of COVID-19 in Newcastle, Co.Down.
The South Down MP said: “In recent days it would appear that a Covid-19 cluster has developed in the Newcastle area.
“Myself and local Sinn Féin Councillor Willie Clarke have now requested that the Public Health Agency urgently locate a mobile testing centre in the Newcastle area in response.
“In recent weeks we have seen a significant rise in visitors to Newcastle and the growing concern of the local community is that many visitors are too relaxed when it comes to adhering to guidelines on social distancing and face masks.
“This lack of compliance not only puts the immediate person at risk, but also the frontline hospitality staff, retail workers and the local community and further easing of restrictions.
“While I also welcome and thank the vast majority of businesses who have invested large sums of money to ensure maximum protection for staff and customers, it is concerning and unacceptable that a small minority have not done so.
“All staff must have access to PPE, awareness training and their working conditions made safe to ensure minimal risks to staff and customer alike.
“In Newcastle and indeed across the North, we need to see increased social solidarity.
“I am encouraging the public to download the Stop Covid app and to wear face masks; for businesses to take all possible steps to protect staff and customers. And of course the statutory agencies to play a more proactive role in ensuring facilities are safe and adhering to the rules.
“The last thing that we want is a localised lockdown in a popular tourism destination such as Newcastle.
“This would be hugely damaging to the local family-run businesses in the town, many of who have done tremendous work in preparing for safely reopening.
“Public health must be paramount, and if the PHA and Department of Health determine that is the only course of action, then the local community will have to brace itself once again for such a measure.
“Sinn Féin will continue to do all that we can to ensure that all possible measures are implemented to protect the health and wellbeing of the community in Newcastle and to minimise the spread of COVID-19,” said Mr Hazzard.
Respect for Others Must Be at the Heart of Newcastle Covid Concerns Says McGrath
The SDLP’s Colin McGrath MLA has said that respect for others must be at the heart of concerns raised in relation to small clusters of Covid-19 in Newcastle.
Commenting the South Down MLA said: “Naturally I have been contacted by a number of people who are very concerned about the number of people in the Newcastle area who have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last number of days and the impact that this has had on businesses. I share this concern.
“What is of critical importance at this time is to allow those who have symptoms to have the freedom and ability to get tested for the virus and to not feel as though they are being named and shamed on social media, as we are seeing at present.
“Businesses should not be made to feel that they need to name people on social media who have tested positive. That would be unfair and a backward step.
“If everyone continues with the practice of fundamental actions then this will limit any potential further spread of the virus: wash your hands properly and often, practice social distancing, download and operate the STOP COVID NI app and make use of it.
“With the brakes being released on lockdown, people have flocked to Newcastle in their droves as they do every year. The welcoming and warm hearted local community has done everything they could to ensure people had access to sanitiser stations.
“So there has to be a certain element of personal responsibility for those who made their way here and contributed to the huge crowds we have been seeing.
“I would urge caution for everyone who is journeying to tourist destinations to show respect to those who live and work there and ask the very pertinent question: do I really need to make this journey?” said Mr McGrath.