Northern Ireland Executive ministers and their officials have over the past 24 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.
Relaxations to a number of COVID-19 restrictions are to go ahead as planned from next Monday (8 June), the Executive confirmed today.
With the COVID-19 R reproduction rate sitting between 0.7 and 0.9, medical and scientific advisers indicated to Ministers it was safe to proceed with the following changes to the Coronavirus Regulations from June 8, 2020:
- Those who are shielding will be able to spend time outside with people from their own household or a person from another household whilst ensuring social distancing is observed;
- People will be permitted to leave home to attend to the needs or welfare of an animal or animals;
- Outdoor marriages and civil partnership ceremonies will be allowed, with number of people attending limited to 10;
- Outdoor sports facilities will be permitted to re-open;
- The conduct of business by outdoor non-food retailers will be permitted, including new and used car retailers; retailers of light motor vehicles, lorries/trailers; retailers of caravans or motorhomes, and retailers of agricultural or other large machinery; and
- The conduct of business by non-food retail outlets with lower frequency customer visits and/or with a greater propensity for larger store areas will be permitted. But only where those outlets have direct street access or direct access within a retail park.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “We have only been able to make these relaxations because the public have followed the advice and flattened the curve of infection, protected the health service and saved many lives. It is important that we all stick the course now, so that further relaxations can be made in the future.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill commented: “Today’s news will be welcome progress for some areas of the retail sector but it is particularly significant for those people who have been shielding. We know this has been a difficult and lonely time for many people who have isolated themselves for their own protection and they can now look forward next week to meeting outdoors in limited circumstances and having a chance to reconnect with loved ones.”
Health Minister Robin Swann added: “I’m pleased that we have been able to confirm some further relaxations to the restrictions today. However, we must remember that the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations were introduced to save lives and that remains our top priority as we move through each step of recovery.”
The next phase of the Executive’s COVID-19 public information campaign was also launched today.
Print, broadcasting, outdoor and digital media channels are being deployed in a campaign that urges citizens to follow the advice to ‘Stay Safe; Save Lives’ and ‘Work Safe; Save Lives’.
Messaging will encourage the public to: stay at home as much as possible to stop the spread of the virus; limit contact with others; keep your distance if going out; wash your hands well and often; work from home where possible.
Part of the campaign will also focus on the Test, Trace and Protect policy and telling the public not to leave home if anyone in the household has COVID-19 symptoms.
Minister Swann also warned today that rebuilding health and social care services will be a “massive and long-term undertaking” as staff and the general public adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the publication of emergency care waiting time statistics for January to March 2020, the Minister said while attendances at emergency departments fell significantly during the initial period of the lockdown, numbers had started to climb significantly in recent weeks.
He announced: “Next week, I will be publishing a detailed blueprint for the rebuilding of our health and social care system. This is a massive and long-term undertaking, given the limitations on capacity due to the ongoing COVID-19 threat. We have heard a lot about how social distancing will severely affect the capacity of shops, restaurants and other businesses for months and possibly years. This will be even more of a challenge for Emergency Departments and other health and social care services. There will be no return to business as usual.”
The Department of Education today issued guidance to educational settings on safe working during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
The document covers a number of areas including:
- The strategy for infection prevention and control to facilitate safe working;
- guidance regarding the specific circumstances in which personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used; and
- measures to support specific areas of concern in respect of children with underlying medical needs; Special Educational Needs and safeguarding needs.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “Keeping our children and staff safe in educational settings is of vital importance. This guidance applies to staff working in all educational settings in Northern Ireland, together with the children, young people and pupils who attend these settings and their parents or carers. There are important actions that everyone can take during the coronavirus outbreak to help prevent the spread of the virus in educational settings. Good hand and respiratory hygiene, including covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, are essential. In addition, it is important to minimise contact with individuals who are unwell and ensure surfaces and buildings are cleaned regularly.”
Notes to editors:
- The Northern Ireland Executive is producing a regular digest of key initiatives and decisions that have been undertaken by ministers and their Departments relating to the Coronavirus crisis.
- Members of the public are encouraged to check regularly the Public Health Agency, NI Direct, NI Executive and government departmental websites and social media channels for public health advice on how to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
- The Coronavirus: Executive Approach to Decision-Making document, which outlines how the Executive is approaching key decisions relating to COVID-19 restrictions on society, is available on The Executive Office website - www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/publications/coronavirus-executive-approach-decision-making
- Current information and advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on the PHA website at: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus.
- Patients who have a persistent cough, or high temperature, together with any other members of their household must self-isolate according to the guidance on the PHA website at: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus#what-should-i-do-if-i-think-i-have-coronavirus and should book a test immediately via can be booked by phoning 119 or through the website nhs.uk/coronavirus. Tests are available for everyone over the age of five.
- The ‘Test, Trace and Protect’ strategy can be accessed via: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/Test-Trace-Protect-Support-Strategy.pdf
- The Department of Health NI’s COVID-19 NI information app provides people with immediate advice and links to vital trusted information. The app will be updated as the pandemic evolves. Download the COVID-19 NI app - search for Covid-19 NI on the Apple app store and Covid-19 NI on google play. The online version of the app is hosted on a new website https://covid-19.hscni.net.
- A COVID-19 statistical dash board can also be viewed on the Department of Health’s website at: https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiMWFhZDgzZDYtMTE4Yi00MTBjLWIzYmQtMTZhYzc1MGEyMTk1IiwidCI6IjljOWEzMGRlLWQ4ZDctNGFhNC05NjAwLTRiZTc2MjVmZjZjNSIsImMiOjh9.
- The Framework for the Wellbeing of Health and Social Care staff can be accessed at the following link: www.publichealth.hscni.net/sites/default/files/2020-04/HSC_Regional%20Staff%20Wellbeing%20Framework.pdf and is based on evidence and best practice guidance and is informed by The British Psychological Society Guidance Paper.
- Psychological Support Help Lines will be staffed by psychologists and psychological therapists who can provide appropriate support throughout the surge phase of the crisis.
- The Helplines will be made available by each Trust to all their staff, to all GP Practices in their area, to all Ambulance staff based in their area and to all independent sector care providers in their area. In this way support is offered to all parts of the system throughout surge.
- The Framework document is supported by resources which are available on the PHA website: www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/guidance-hsc-staff/staff-health-and-wellbeing.
- If you are in distress or despair at any time including the COVID-19 crisis, the 24/7 Lifeline helpline is available on 0808 808 8000 where trained counsellors are available to help you.
- Updated guidance for care homes is available on DoH website at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/covid-19-guidance-nursing-and-residential-care-homes-northern-ireland
- Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/.
- The Freephone COVID-19 Community Helpline can be accessed by telephone on 0808 802 0020; email email@example.com or text ACTION to 81025. It is available 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm.
- Statistics on weekly deaths registered in Northern Ireland can be accessed on NISRA’s website at: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/weekly-deaths.
- A list of schools which are open for educational supervision is available on the Department of Education website: www.education-ni.gov.uk/publications/schools-open-supervised-learning-key-workers-children-and-vulnerable-children.
- A link to the guidance on schools clustering is available here: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements.
- Forms for those applying to provide supervision to vulnerable children and the children of key workers can be accessed from the Department of Education website using the following link: http://apps.education-ni.gov.uk/appc19vol/default.aspx.
- The online application form for small businesses that rent premises is available at: http://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/RentalPropertiesandNAVBelow1590.
- Information on the full range of COVID-19 related support for businesses is available at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business.
- A £100m rates relief package for businesses was announced on 17 March – https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/news/covid-19-ps100m-emergency-rates-package-businesses. A copy of the Rates Relief Information policy advice for Minister can be obtained via https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/publications/policy-advice-minister-rates-relief-information-paper
- The ‘Charting a course for the economy: our first steps’ paper can be accessed at: www.economy-ni.gov.uk/publications/charting-course-economy
- Workplace safety guidance for Northern Ireland businesses is available at https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-workplace-safety-guidance-and-priority-sector-list
- To access the form for the Agricultural and Horticultural Census, go to DAERA’s online services at www.daera-ni.gov/onlineservices, click on the Farm Census link, use your unique five-digit code and complete details as requested. Should you encounter any difficulties when completing the online form, please send an email to DAERAsurveys@daera-ni.gov.uk or call 0300 200 7840 and ask for your local DAERA Direct Office. They will pass your details to us and a member of the Farm Census team will contact you as soon as they can.
- A copy of the Guidance to support safe working in educational settings is available on the Department of Education website here: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/publications/guidance-support-safe-working-educational-settings-june-2020. This guidance applies to staff working in all educational settings in Northern Ireland, including statutory and non-statutory pre-school providers, primary and post-primary schools, education otherwise than at schools (EOTAS) settings and youth settings, together with the children, young people and pupils who attend these settings and their parents or carers.
- Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses:
The Executive Office: Press.Office@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk;
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: PressOffice.Group@daera-ni.gov.uk;
Department for Communities: Press.Office@communities-ni.gov.uk;
Department of Education: Press.Office@education-ni.gov.uk;
Department for the Economy: DfE.PressOffice@economy-ni.gov.uk;
Department of Finance: firstname.lastname@example.org
Department for Infrastructure: Press.Office@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk
Department of Health: PressOffice@health-ni.gov.uk
Department of Justice: Press.Office@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk
- For out of office hours media queries, contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
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