As the scale of the Covid19 crisis unfolds, Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that the message on social distancing is not getting through to everyone.
People are being urged to avoid going out unless they absolutely have to and when out, stay a distance away from others.
Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
Health Minister Robin Swann warns that until people take the measure seriously, the virus will continue to spread.
He said, “It seems the social distancing message has not landed yet with everybody. So let me repeat the warning.
“The very same virus that is creating untold devastation in Italy and elsewhere is here and spreading in our community right now. It threatens us with an onslaught.
“In a few short weeks, this onslaught could very rapidly dwarf the impact of the Troubles on our society.
“But we are not powerless in this situation. We can push it back. We can fight back.
“So let me urge everyone across society to do the right thing. Do it not just for yourself but for your family, friends and neighbours. Do it for our health workers and the health service.
“Stay at home. Save lives.
“Please everyone hammer this message home however you can.”
Parents are also being asked to make sure their children stay at home. Despite public perception, children are not immune to Covid-19.
Children are encouraged to tell their parents how high the stakes are.
Continuing, the Minister said, “I know very well how overwhelming this is for all of us. We are dealing with a scenario that was beyond our imagination weeks ago.
“It is sadly very real and everyone needs to get real.
“I know there is immense pressure and responsibility on Government to take all the steps it can. Let me assure you I am doing my best, and so too is everyone at all levels across the health service.
“The serious problems we are grappling with are by no means unique to Northern Ireland and we must throw every last ounce of our energy into doing everything we can.
“And let me repeat – if the looming Covid-19 surge isn’t pushed back, then no health service in the world would be able to cope.
“However, we still have time. Please follow the advice. Stay at home. Wash your hands. Keep your distance.”