Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (11 May 2020)

Date published: 11 May 2020

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.

Covid-19 Executive Update
Covid-19 Executive Update

Ministers edged closer today towards signing off on a phased plan for Northern Ireland’s gradual emergence from Covid-19 restrictions.

Executive Office Junior Ministers Gordon Lyons and Declan Kearney confirmed further work was taking place on the plan, which Ministers hoped would be released to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the wider public tomorrow.

Stressing that the public health advice from the Executive was still that citizens should remain at home as much as possible, Junior Minister Kearney told the daily press conference: “We are still in the response phase to this pandemic but, of course, the Executive is working intensively to prepare for our future recovery. And I want to assure citizens that the Executive is taking a pragmatic and considered approach to our own pathway for recovery that is right for us here in this region.

“We have had a detailed and positive discussion about that strategy today. And I’m pleased that the Executive made further progress on our plan for how our society can begin to embark on a pathway towards recovery. Further work will be done on that plan over the next 24 hours to reflect the views of our five party, power sharing Executive and, when finalised, we hope to bring that document before the Assembly tomorrow and communicate the detail with the public.”

Junior Minister Lyons told the briefing: “The Economy Minister is also working on a further paper dedicated to Economic Recovery which will dovetail with the roadmap and be published subsequently in the coming days. While the Executive continues to liaise closely with the UK Government, with our counterparts in Wales and Scotland and also with the Irish Government, the reality is that the devolved administrations are going to diverge slightly and at particular points in time, mindful of the different circumstances in each region including the stage the spread of the disease is at.

“However we remain committed to working closely with all administrations - sharing information and insights on Covid-19. To that end, we welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister on the establishment of a new Joint Biosecurity Centre to monitor the levels of infection and identify specific actions in regions where spikes occur. The devolved administrations will participate in and contribute to its work.”

A decision to hold post-primary transfer tests a few weeks later because of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 health crisis was welcomed by the Education Minister Peter Weir.

The Association of Quality Education (AQE) confirmed their tests will be held on 21 November, 28 November and 12 December 2020, while the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) GL tests will be held on 5 December. A reserve test will be held on 19 December.

Following the announcement by both exam bodies, Minister Weir said: “I welcome this announcement which should provide pupils, parents and teachers with the clarity that they have been calling for on this important issue.

“More importantly, I hope that it will remove any stress that pupils and parents might be feeling and provide reassurance in terms of being able to plan and work towards the new dates that have been announced. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank both the Association of Quality Education (AQE) and Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) for working to make this happen in the unique circumstances that we currently face."

Ahead of International Nurses Day tomorrow, Health Minister Robin Swann issued a statement thanking Northern Ireland’s nurses and midwives for their ongoing contribution during the pandemic.

Hailing the courage of all in the profession, Minister Swann said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is testing all of us, but nurses are on the front line. They are working tirelessly in our hospitals, primary care, care homes and right across all settings to keep our community safe. I know that there has been anxiety and worry across the profession as we face this public health crisis but I have also seen the courage and positivity of our nurses.”

“They have been instrumental in our response to Covid-19. Their leadership, expertise and experience were key in the opening of our Nightingale Hospital, we have had over 700 nursing and midwifery students in their final six months of study join the workforce early and almost 1,000 nurses, nursing assistants and midwives have applied to return to the health service.

Nurses celebrate International Nurses’ Day on the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale (12 May), a founding leader of the profession, and 2020 has also been designated the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, marking 200 years since the birth of Nightingale.

The NI Executive is urging people to shine a light from their window at 8pm tomorrow (Tuesday 12 May) to mark the day and show their appreciation for what nurses are doing to save and rebuild the lives of patients with Coronavirus.

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. More information on the post-primary transfer tests can be found on the respective websites of the two test providers: https://aqe.org.uk/ and http://www.pptcni.com/
  24. 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: dof.pressoffice@finance-ni.gov.uk

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

25. For out of office hours media queries, contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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