THE Covid statistics with which we are being confronted daily make for sobering reading and are a vindication of those of us who warned of the danger of complacency in the wake of the recent lifting of lockdown restrictions.
A Covid infection rate ten times higher than that of the Republic. The highest Covid rate in the developed world. The highest death rate on these islands. These grim figures are proof-positive that a gear-change is needed when it comes to how we are dealing with the crisis as we head towards the end of  the second year. No-one is yet  seriously suggesting another lockdown – not least because the ever-rising vaccination rates have changed the nature of crisis. That said, we lag behind the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales in the number of people jabbed and the health authorities and politicians here seem to be fresh out of ideas when it comes to addressing the very real and growing problem of vaccine scepticism.
That’s no great surprise given that  DUP First Minister Paul Givan continues to part from his co-equal at the head of government, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, to go on hugely ill-advised solo runs advocating a total lifting of restrictions by the end of September. “The justification for having regulations in place for this is diminishing and I don't think is proportionate,” he says, even as the line on the virus graph climbs relentlessly upwards. Little wonder that this seeps from the top down through all levels of government and all departments.
And as the media throws its hands up in horror and publishes the latest shock statistics, it would be hugely helpful if certain outlets and certain individuals stopped and considered the extent to which they may have contributed to the mess we find ourselves in today. The appetite for giving a platform to irresponsible and frankly dangerous people is huge, driven solely by the desire for clicks, readers, listeners and viewers. The continuing insistence on putting on loudmouths on with trained experts to spout something they read in the gutter of Facebook is a slap in the face to all of us who have done our best to follow the science and keep us all safe. And it is a kick in the teeth for our frontline health service heroes.
That such people have their often repellent views challenged makes little if any difference. Those who may have genuine fears about the vaccine, those who are frightened and confused, are extraordinarily vulnerable to these attention-seeking  fairground barkers spraying sensational and superficially persuasive lies. To the same vulnerable people, the cool and objective logic of scientists can seem alienating and distant.
It’s clear that things are going badly wrong, but so many factors are at play that a response must of necessity be complex and multi-layered. But on the single issue of vaccinations there must be a strong and clear message sent out that normality isn’t coming any time soon if the jab rate is not driven up substantially.