THE Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Jim Montgomery has warned local people against COVID complacency as new vaccines are announced.
Meanwhile, South Antrim DUP MP Paul Girvan has said that further restrictions being introduced this weekend are ‘deeply disappointing’ and ‘hard to accept’.
From Friday, non-essential shops and businesses will close for two weeks, as part of tougher measures across Northern Ireland.
Mayor Montgomery said: “As we approach the end of 2020 and in what has been an extremely difficult year, it is uplifting to finally see a glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
“Much work has gone into the development of a vaccine and the latest positive results mark another important step forward in the fight against the virus.”
“However, as we begin to move closer to the roll out of a vaccine, it is vital that we do not let our guard slip and allow the virus to spread through our families and communities.
“Our NHS is still facing immense pressure and we need to do all we can to protect it.
“So I am urging you all to remain vigilant and follow the simple steps that we know can reduce the spread of this virus.”
“We can play our part by maintaining good hand hygiene, respecting social distancing, wearing face coverings and adhering to current regulations.
“It is important to also be mindful of our own health and get tested quickly if you experience symptoms. Ensuring you have the Stop COVID App on your phone can greatly help the Public Health Agency Track and Trace programme.”
“It is understandable that everyone is eager to resume levels of normality in their daily lives.
“An effective vaccine is fantastic news, but regulatory and logistical hurdles will take time to navigate.”
“People have lost their lives in this battle, and we owe it to our most vulnerable to ensure they are not exposed to undue risk.
“Until enough of our population is protected, we must all pull together and stay the course.”
But, speaking as new restrictions and closures are set to come into play this Friday, the South Antrim MP Paul Girvan fumed: “The restrictions announced by the Northern Ireland Executive are hard to accept with little evidence of the need for them and hard to understand why some businesses are shut and some are staying open.
“Our small businesses, especially in our town centres, are being pushed to the brink of closure.
“This is not exaggeration.
“In the towns of South Antrim businesses have gone above and beyond what they were expected to do to keep their businesses safe.
“They cannot cope, however, with the continuous rolling lockdowns which look different every two weeks.
“Make no mistake, the future of our communities is at stake.
“Our towns and villages will die without balanced consideration of what truly needs to close.
“December would have been the biggest month for many of the businesses forced to close their doors. If they manage to open again this year, which is imperative, I urge you all to support our local businesses, to preserve our high streets.
“Grants are good, but custom is better.”
Meanwhile, all leisure facilities in the borough will close for two weeks from Friday, November 27.
This includes fitness suites and classes, swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, outdoor pitches, racquet sports and running track.
A council spokesperson commented: “As a result and due to ongoing uncertainty regarding the opening of the council’s leisure facilities, membership fees will remain suspended until further notice.”
A new multi-million pound support package announced on Monday will benefit high street retailers, businesses hoping to sell online, bed and breakfasts, manufacturing, ‘wet’ pubs, sports clubs, councils, company directors, and the disabled and elderly.