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.
A phased five-stage plan for how Northern Ireland can slowly move out of lockdown was published by the Executive today.
The document, which sets out the approach ministers will take when deciding how to ease restrictions, was also outlined in the Assembly by the First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.
In reaching decisions on relaxing restrictions, the Executive will consider three key criteria: The most up-to-date scientific evidence; the ability of the health service to cope; and the wider impacts on our health, society and the economy.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “We don’t want to keep any restriction in place any longer than we have to, but in relaxing any measure we must be cognisant of the potential effects in the transmission of the virus and our ability to save lives. The Executive’s recovery strategy sets out a pathway for us to emerge from lockdown in the safest way possible. This will require a series of judgements and decisions as we move forward. These decisions will be evidence based, taking account of our unique circumstances here in Northern Ireland. As we embark on our phased recovery, we will remain focused on the health and wellbeing of our population; the impacts on our society; and our economy as a whole. Above all else, our priority will be saving lives.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill added: “The incremental five-step approach reflects the risk-based judgements we will make at each stage. These decisions will be evidenced by medical and scientific advice and benchmarked against our guiding principles and international best practice. The Executive’s strategy is not time bound because it’s vital that we retain the flexibility needed to respond to the complex emerging situation based on all relevant evidence. Our recovery from Coronavirus will require a real partnership effort with the community. We are appealing to the public to please be patient. Keep adhering to the restrictions, follow the public health advice and stay at home. We will keep you updated every step of the way when we are in a position to slowly and carefully move out of lockdown.”
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon also brought to the Assembly today new electric bike legislation, enabling the use of some cycles on public roads without the need for registration or licensing during the COVID-19 restrictions.
MLAs unanimously passed the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 allowing the use on public roads from tomorrow (May 13, 2020) of e-bike with pedals and an electric motor which has a maximum rated power of 250w and which cannot exceed a speed of 15.5 mph (25 km/h). The legislation does not cover other classes of e-bikes, which will still be considered as motor vehicles.
Minister Mallon said: “This will be an important step to encourage more people regardless of age or physical ability to take up cycling to improve their health and wellbeing which has taken on more importance since the outbreak of COVID-19. I hope that the Assembly can support me and send a clear message to the people of Northern Ireland, that we must change the way we live not only in the midst of this crisis, but to also tackle the climate crisis, reshaping our world and opening new opportunities that enhance our communities and our wellbeing. As we move towards the recovery phase of this emergency, using electric bikes to travel to work or for recreational purposes would provide an opportunity for people to consider an alternative way to travel or enjoy their daily exercise. By cutting down on traffic congestion, and reducing air pollution, we will also improve the quality of life for everyone in Northern Ireland.”
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- For out of office hours media queries, contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
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