THE ravages of COVID-19 have taken a terrible toll on the people of Antrim and Newtownabbey, shocking new figures have revealed.
From the start of the pandemic in March until January 29, 252 local lives have been cut tragically short by the virus.
That means that almost one in five deaths registered in the Borough during the last 11 months have been linked to COVID-19 - which is the highest figure in the province.
By contrast just 9.2 per cent of deaths in the Fermanagh and Omagh Council area, less than half the local death toll, were COVID-related.
Behind each cold statistic is an individual tragedy, but that terrifying toll has continued to rise - despite the roll out of the vaccination programme in December.
Antrim and Newtownabbey has not had a week pass without coronavirus deaths since October 2, and January was by far the blackest month since the pandemic began.
In that month alone 68 local people perished - and 45 of those came in a dark two-week spell.
Vulnerable older people may have been top of the list for the life-saving jabs, but the Antrim Guardian can reveal that 19 people still perished in the Borough’s nursing homes.
Last night Mayor Jim Montgomery said the latest statistics offered sobering proof that complacency could cost lives in the weeks and months ahead.
The vaccine may offer a route map out of the pandemic, but the people of Antrim and Newtownabbey are ‘not out of the woods’ just yet.
“The impact of COVID-19 has been experienced with various degrees of severity at different times in communities right across Northern Ireland,” he said.
“What the statistics can never show, is the pain borne by those who have lost loved ones to this pandemic, and we must always keep them at the forefront of our minds and in our prayers.
“To experience the loss of a loved one, when you cannot feel the close support of wider family and friends, is particularly difficult.
“The community response across Antrim and Newtownabbey has been truly humbling, and we can all be proud of the huge effort made to protect and support those most vulnerable.
“The factors that influence these figures are no doubt complex and cross-cutting, so at the appropriate time we will engage with our Community Planning stakeholders to consider the impact across the Borough and identify any learning points that will inform future priorities.”
“But for now, we must all redouble our efforts to protect our NHS, our families and our communities by staying at home and following the guidance on social distancing, sanitising and wearing face-coverings.
“Our Health Service staff are leading the way with a rapid roll-out of vaccinations, and I would urge everyone to respond to the call when invited to ensure we protect our community as quickly as possible.”