Northern Ireland Executive ministers and their officials have over the past 72 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.
Minsters are to assess at their next Executive meeting how Northern Ireland is progressing its roadmap for recovery from lockdown, First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill announced today.
As the Executive provisionally approved the relaxation of more Covid-19 restrictions, the First and deputy First Ministers confirmed they and their colleagues will review on Thursday their strategy on recovery.
First Minister Foster told the Stormont press briefing: “We are all very mindful in the Executive of the desire of families and friends to meet and we will consider that later in the week. We have looked at the approach that has been adopted in other parts of the world, including in New Zealand and we have asked officials for advice on the ‘bubble concept’. The deputy First Minister and I have also agreed to establish a working group involving churches and other faith groups to discuss how best to achieve the gradual opening of places of worship safely step by step in recognition of the importance of faith in people’s lives in Northern Ireland.”
With no Covid-19 related deaths being recorded for the second day running, Deputy First Minister O’Neill added: “An enormous amount of work is being done across Departments with stakeholders as we look to the future but no Minister or no Department is working in isolation. The decisions we take throughout the recovery process will have a ripple effect on many other aspects of public service. Thursday’s special meeting of the Executive will consider that strategic focus on a joined up effort that is needed as we move forward.”
Discussions will also take place with the Irish Government tomorrow about recovery efforts on both sides of the border.
Earlier, Economy Minister Diane Dodds confirmed all non-essential goods retailers in Northern Ireland will be able to re-open their shops from Friday 12 June provided there is no increase in the spread of Covid-19,
During a visit to Debenhams’ store in Belfast city centre, the Minister confirmed she and her colleagues had sanctioned the reopening of shops that could implement safety measures for staff and customers.
Minister Dodds said: “The re-opening of our local shopping sector is a significant step forward in the Executive’s pathway to recovery. I and my Executive colleagues remain committed to moving forward in the recovery while at all times keeping the health, wellbeing and safety of people at the centre and being transparent in our approach. This is a major step forward today but there is more work to do and I will continue to work to progress the recovery.”
A new ID card enabling carers to get access to priority shopping hours was launched by the Health Minister Robin Swann.
The card can be used by unpaid/family carers and young careers during priority shopping hours at ASDA, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s stores.
As Carers Week got underway, Minister Swann commented: “The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a number of added challenges for carers, not only are they now spending more time looking after loved ones but other everyday tasks such as going for medications or other essentials now takes longer. The introduction of the ID card and the partnership with retailers should reduce the time carers have to spend shopping and hopefully ease some of that pressure. I know that a great deal of work has gone into this initiative and I would like to thank the retailers, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, Carers NI, the Health and Social Care Board and the Trusts.”
Carer ID cards are issued by the Health Trusts. Carers who are known to their local Trust and are in receipt of services will receive an ID card shortly – there is no need to apply for a card. Those who don’t receive a card within the next two weeks are urged to contact their Trust Carer co-ordinator.
Belfast’s first new pop-up cycle lanes were announced by the Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon today as part of her ongoing drive to deliver sustainable infrastructure.
As Bike Week got underway, the Minister confirmed the pop-up lanes will operate in:
- Dublin Road (preliminary work linking between the Alfred Street cycle lane to Dublin Road via Bankmore Street has already been undertaken) - further work will be undertaken to connect onwards to the Belfast City Hospital;
- Grosvenor Road from the Royal Victoria Hospital – this will provide a link to the existing two-way cycle lane on Durham Street and College Square North;
- Crumlin Road and Oldpark Road – cycle lanes will be added between the various sections of bus lanes and advisory cycle lanes, between Hillview Road and the Mater Hospital, to provide a more coherent route on both sides of the road. The bus lane will also be made to operate throughout the day.
Minister Mallon said: “The Covid crisis has brought unprecedented challenges and has fundamentally changed the way we live. However, there is no doubt that it has also created an opportunity for us all to take a closer look at how we travel and consider how we can do things better moving forward. I am committed to working towards reimagining and reshaping our spaces to accommodate cycling, walking and active travel as part of an ambitious Executive recovery plan. This is a real opportunity to build a better future that delivers more for our citizens, socially and economically, delivering cleaner, greener and healthier communities. We must seize it.”
The creation of the pop-up cycle lanes has been undertaken in conjunction with Belfast City Council.
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
- Unpaid/family carers who do not receive a Carers ID card within the next two weeks, should get in touch with the relevant contact from the list below to alert them:
Telephone Carer Hub: 028 2766 1210
Telephone Carer Service: 028 9504 6702
Telephone: 028 3756 6284
Southern Sector (Fermanagh/Omagh/Castlederg)
Telephone: 028 6634 4163
Northern Sector (Strabane/L’Derry/Limavady)
Telephone: 028 7135 5023
South Eastern Trust
Telephone: 028 4372 1807
- Young carers will be contacted by either Barnardos or Action for Children depending on the Trust area they live in.
Young Carers in Northern Ireland
Action for Children
Telephone: 028 9046 0500
Contact Dougie Tyler
- 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
- The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
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