LISTEN: First Minister says vaccine "not the end of the fight against Covid"

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By PA Reporters and Q Radio News

Stormont's First Minister Arlene Foster welcomed roll out of the vaccine.

“This is a pathway out but we must walk all of that path until we reach its end.

“We must all keep to the public health advice.

“This is not the end of the fight against Covid.

“The virus is just as dangerous until you receive the vaccine.”

She said the first to receive the jab would be 16,000 care home residents and 32,000 staff, plus 71,000 health and care staff and just over 80,000 people aged 80 or over.

Stormont Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said it had been a long battle against the virus and today would be one of mixed emotions for those who had lost over 1,000 loved ones.

“It is the beginning of the end but we still have a way to go.”

She added: “This has been a very long and winding tunnel.”

She said today offered a glimpse of a brighter future.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Today is a good day, make no mistake about it, but remember we have many more steps along this long and difficult path to go.”

He added: “We are facing a long and deep winter and the health service will continue to face extreme pressure.”

He said letting complacency creep in now would be “unforgiveable”.

He said the vaccination programme would be a “mammoth and long-term” operation and urged patience.

“Things will get better slowly but surely.”

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said vaccination would not be compulsory.

He added that an uptake of around 70% was necessary.

“What we see in Northern Ireland with regards to flu vaccine programmes is that we already have a population who are engaged…they have come forward in greater numbers.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said ministers would this week discuss plans for after Northern Ireland’s circuit breaker ends later this month.

She added: “We want to be able to communicate to people well in advance, we intend to be able to get an executive decision tomorrow and then move to place the regulations directly afterwards.”

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said vaccination progress was a major step forward.

“It is the breakthrough that we have all been hoping for and praying for, this is our pathway back to normality. Back to a world where we can hug our wider family and friends, able to mark major life events together, both happy and sad, and where we can freely enjoy travel and leisure activities and work and socialise with colleagues.”

Stormont Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “A vaccination to protect you and your family from Covid-19 will be available. We should all take some comfort from that.

“It will take some months to roll out the vaccine to everyone and I want to assure you that we will be doing all that we can to make sure that that happens as quickly and as smoothly as possible.”

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases.

Robin Swann

“They save millions of lives worldwide every day. So today is a good day, make no mistake about it, but remember we have many more steps along this long and difficult path to go.”

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