Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (1 May 2020)

Date published: 01 May 2020

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.

Covid-19 Executive Update
Covid-19 Executive Update

A £5.7 million financial package to secure air connectivity from Belfast City and City of Derry Airports was today welcomed by the Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

The financial aid, which will be jointly funded by the Executive and the Department for Transport, will assist the two airports and also airlines which continue to keep Northern Ireland’s passenger links with GB open during the Covid-19 emergency.

Announcing the package, Minister Mallon confirmed: “This assistance will provide financial aid to both City of Derry Airport and Belfast City Airport to help with their operating costs when so much of their business has been affected. Finance is also being made available to keep the remaining flights operating out of those airports.”

Minister Dodds added: “Maintaining air connectivity with the GB mainland is critical, especially during this Covid-19 crisis period. Hence I am delighted that the lifeline passenger flights from the City of Derry Airport and Belfast City Airport to London are being supported over the forthcoming months”

Minister Murphy said: “Our airports and airlines are a critical part of our economic infrastructure and it is vital that they are maintained through this crisis. I am pleased that the package we are announcing today will keep our airports open and allow essential flights to continue to operate.”

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots confirmed that most routine inspections by his Department will remain paused until 15 May 2020 because of the pandemic.

Minister Poots had previously announced that inspections would be halted until April 30. However, following the decision of the Executive to extend the restrictions to 9 May 2020, a review was carried out as part of the continuing effort to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

The continued pausing of inspections will take the pressure off businesses and the agri-food sector as they work to ensure essential product supply chains keep moving. 

Where it has been reported or suspected that there has been, or there is likely to be, potential for a significant impact on public health, trade, animal health or pollution of the environment the pause on inspections will not apply. In those cases, DAERA staff may undertake site inspections on farms (or elsewhere) to assess and resolve any issues.

Minister Poots also reaffirmed today his Department’s commitment to supporting the red meat and dairy sectors amid the financial challenges faced by producers as a result of Covid-19.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs officials continue to closely monitor the downturn in local, national and international market prices and their impact on local producers.

The Minister said: “We are coming to the end of Great British Beef Week and NI Beef Week and with everything else going on with the Coronavirus crisis, I’m calling on the public to give extra support to all our local sectors at this time. Buy local beef produce and give our beef farmers a well-deserved boost this year. I want to again thank all our local food producers for their tireless efforts to keep the food chain here moving and food on our tables.”

Justice Minister Naomi Long and the Irish Government’s Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan praised the close cooperation between police forces on both sides of the border in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following a discussion between both governments, Minister Long said: “We are still very much in the midst of the pandemic and we simply cannot afford to allow complacency to creep in. While formal enforcement powers of the health protection measures have been made available to policing, the vast majority of people are doing the right thing and I have been impressed by how the PSNI and An Garda Siochana have worked closely together to keep people safe.

“The ‘stay at home’ message is just as crucial now as it was on day one of this crisis. If you are getting into your car, ask yourself if your reason for doing so is both essential and reasonable. None of this is easy but it is so important if we are to continue to flatten the curve and save lives.”

New provisions have been put in place to enable each district council to hold meetings remotely during the Coronavirus emergency, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey confirmed.

From today, new regulations under the Coronavirus Act 2020 enable district councils to hold meetings remotely including by (but not limited to) telephone conferencing, video conferencing, live webcast and live interactive streaming.

The regulations apply to all councils and all council meetings including committee or sub-committees, executive meetings and joint committees of two or more councils. Provisions have been made for remote access to council meetings by council members and the public.

Minister Hargey commented: “These regulations that my Department has put in place will be welcomed by councils as it will enable them to proceed with their democratic business while meeting social distancing requirements.  This crisis has required new ways of working for many and these changes will enable councils to make the changes needed to ensure important business continues.”

Councils are also permitted to postpone their annual meeting up to 30 September and hold other meetings as they consider necessary. Information which generally has to be made available at Council offices will now be made available on Council websites.

Notes to editors: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. The Department of Health NI has launched a new Covid-19 NI information app to provide 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.
  6. The online version of the app is hosted on a new website https://covid-19.hscni.net.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. Psychological Support Help Lines will be staffed by psychologists and psychological therapists who can provide appropriate support throughout the surge phase of the crisis.
  10. 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.
  11. 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
  12. 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.
  13. 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
  14. Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/.
  15. The Freephone Covid-19 Community Helpline can be accessed by telephone on 0808 802 0020; email covid1@adviceni.net or text ACTION to 81025. It is available 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm.
  16. Statistics on weekly deaths registered in Northern Ireland can be accessed on NISRA’s website at: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/weekly-deaths
  17. Volunteer Now has launched a new online campaign #HelpEachOther for those who wish to volunteer for Covid-19 related opportunities and for those organisations which require the support of volunteers to deliver their services to the most in need. Further information is available at: www.volunteernow.co.uk
  18. 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.
  19. A link to the guidance on schools clustering is available here: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements
  20. 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
  21. The online application form for small businesses that rent premises is available at: http://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/RentalPropertiesandNAVBelow1590  
  22. 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
  23. The full list of inspections that are paused, continuing, or recommencing, can be found on the DAERA website at: www.daera-ni.gov.uk/outline-extending-pause-routine-inspections
  24. Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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