With schools returning in a phased way, we have turned another corner in the pandemic. Last week the Stormont Health Committee received a Ministerial update on the Covid-19 Disease Response from Health Minister Robin Swann and the Chief Medical Officer.

This was followed by a Departmental briefing on the Health and Social Care Bill. The Committee also received a Departmental briefing  on SR 2021/26 The Healthy Start Scheme and Day Care Food Scheme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam says that we should not give up whilst three-nil up but this football analogy did not carry much weight on the Shankill Road where regulations were not followed in order to celebrate a win by Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Premier League.

In the pandemic women have felt more anxious, depressed and lonely than men in the first year. Women spent more time on unpaid childcare and housework over the past year than men and were more likely to be furloughed.

More men than women have died with Covid-19 but men were more likely to be unconcerned about the effect of the virus on their lives. Women’s anxiety levels have been higher and loneliness was the biggest cause of anxiety in the first peak of the pandemic.

Women did most of the housework and spent more time looking after the children and this was more so in the autumn. One in three women said that homeschooling was negatively affecting their wellbeing, compared with only one in five men.

But by last month homeschooling was taking a greater toll on both women and men, with about half saying it was having a damaging effect. 

Men are more at risk and this is because men are more likely to have heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. Men are more likely to be obese and there may be genetic factors.

As a result about 18 per cent more men have died of Covid-19. In the working age of 20-64 men were nearly twice as likely to die as women.

It is over a year since The World Health Organisation declared the outbreaks to be a pandemic.

The return to schools is associated with a concern that there may be an increase in the R or transmission rate more due to events on the way to school than events within the schools. Nevertheless, it is hoped that a phased approach titrating against the epidemiological data will be allowed by the Executive to proceed.

With eight deaths overnight as I write, 147 new cases and 640,000 vaccinated we cannot afford to relax yet. President Biden has his sights set on July 4.

For us, perhaps we can ease back after Easter.