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.
The first consignment of a major PPE order by the Executive from China has arrived in Belfast, Health Minister Robin Swann and Finance Minister Conor Murphy confirmed today.
Both ministers confirmed 1.5 million Type 11R respirator masks arrived in recent days, as they vowed to continue to work tirelessly to secure more PPE for frontline workers.
Minister Swann noted: “There is intense global demand for PPE products, so the achievement in securing this order should not be underestimated. However, demand for PPE will remain at very high levels for a considerable period – not just in health and social care but in other sectors too. I have made clear that PPE products will be only be issued to frontline staff after they are assessed. I am pleased to confirm that the reports on the new consignment are positive in this regard.”
Minister Murphy added: “Establishing a supply line with China, in the face of significant international competition for PPE, is a significant achievement for the Executive. This has been made possible by the collaborative efforts of the procurement teams in Health and Finance along with the Bureau in China. At the same time as opening up a supply line with China, it is important to ramp up local supply of PPE. Many companies have already repurposed their operations and this should be expanded to provide security of supply and create employment as we move towards economic recovery.”
Just over 63 million Type 11R Masks have been purchased alongside 109 million gloves (54.6m pairs).
The total value of the contract is just over £60 million and the remainder of the consignment will be delivered on a phased basis over the coming weeks.
Minister Swann also announced a £300 million investment in the digital transformation of the health service, with the awarding of a contract that will create 200 additional jobs over 10 years.
The contract award for Epic Systems to deliver the Encompass project will result in the creation of a Digital Care Record for every citizen and an end to the heavy reliance upon paper patient records.
The Minister said: “Digital transformation will have a vital role in the rebuilding of health and social care in the wake of the first Covid-19 wave. For example, virtual clinics will increasingly be embedded in the provision of care. That innovation has been fast tracked as a result of Coronavirus. We are calling time on the current situation of multiple, ageing digital systems and a large reliance on the paper record. This investment will improve outcomes for our patients and service users by making it easier for our HSC professionals to deliver sustainable, high quality care, improved efficiencies and greater collaboration across all care settings.”
The Minister also urged people today who have shielded during the Covid-19 emergency to take part in a survey gauging their views and experiences.
The survey, which will inform future health decisions, is open to all who were advised to shield as well as those supporting them.
It can be accessed through the Patient Client Council’s website or by email, phone or mail.
Minister Swann said: “This is the beginning of a constant conversation. I want the voices of all those affected to be heard. “I am acutely aware of how tough it has been for those who have been shielding. It was the right action to take to stay safe. As I have stated before, it will not continue for a second longer than is required.”
Eligible businesses were encouraged by the Economy Minister Diane Dodds today to apply for the NI Micro-business Hardship Fund before it closes to applications at 6pm on Friday (12 June).
Businesses with one to nine employees with immediate cash flow difficulties due to Covid-19 – including eligible social enterprises – can apply, with grants of up to £10,000 available for companies that pay business rates and up to £5,000 for those that don’t.
Applicants must also have experienced a reduction in turnover in excess of 40% since 1 March 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic or associated government restrictions.
Social enterprises without charitable status may qualify if at least 60% of their revenue comes from the trade of goods and/or services.
Minister Dodds said: “This fund will provide much-needed support to micro-businesses so I would urge any business owners who think they may be eligible to apply before the closing date. This short term financial support will be vital for many businesses as we work towards the recovery of the Northern Ireland economy.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
- Information about the COVID-19 Charities Fund is available from: https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/covid-19-charities-fund
- The Department of Health’s new framework, ‘Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services - Strategic Framework’ is available on the Department's website at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/rebuilding-hsc-services
- People who have been shielding can access the Patient Client Council survey a number of ways: on the Patient Client Council website at www.patientclientcouncil.hscni.net, via email at email@example.com or over the phone on 0800 917 0222. The survey can also be returned by freepost. To receive a hard copy by post please call the Patient Client Council on 0800 917 0222 or contact it via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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: email@example.com
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
30. 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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