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 drug, which in clinical trials appears to be an effective treatment for Covid-19, will be rolled out widely in Northern Ireland ahead of a second wave of the virus, Health Minister Robin Swann signalled today.
Following confirmation that the anti-inflammatory drug Dexamethasone has proven in clinical trials to reduce the risk of fatalities among patients on ventilation by as much as 35% and patients on oxygen by 20%, the Minister hailed it as an important breakthrough in the treatment of the Coronavirus.
Minister Swann said: “Dexamethasone is ready available to be immediately used in our hospitals for the treatment of Covid-19. Science and research has been at the forefront of the response to the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to be well into the future. While we are easing restrictions and taking steps to come out of lockdown, this news may not seem significant. However we must all remember this virus is still with us, it is still circulating in our communities. It is still a threat. The positive findings for Dexamethasone will allow us to roll the drug out across Northern Ireland in advance of a potential second wave, providing huge benefits to those most impacted by the infection, ultimately helping to save lives.”
Dexamethasone is one of several drugs to be trialled in the largest randomised controlled clinical trial for Covid-19 treatments in the world, RECOVERY, led by Oxford University and funded by the government through the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).
Economy Minister Diane Dodds re-allocated around £30million from within her Department’s budget to address emerging Covid-19 pressures on public finances.
With all Executive Departments being given a special dispensation to re-allocate non-ring fenced budget, the Minister indicated she will use up to £24million in resource/day-to-day funding and £6million in capital funding for the recovery and rebuild phases of the Department for Economy’s response to the pandemic.
Minister Dodds confirmed: “I have allocated £13.6million to address pressures in skills and education, including focussing resources on apprenticeship and training programmes and on further and higher education. I have also allocated a further £9.6million towards initiatives to help businesses that are vulnerable but viable, through support measures to be delivered by Invest NI, Tourism NI and InterTradeIreland. Among the capital re-allocations that I have agreed is funding for vocational education IT and support to vulnerable but viable businesses to help them change how they work.”
With the recovery of the economy a priority for the Executive during the emergence from lockdown, First Minster Arlene Foster outlined during Assembly Oral Questions how Northern Ireland would be promoted overseas in a bid to boost that effort.
With Northern Ireland Executive offices in Washington DC, Brussels and Beijing, the First Minister said officials in each location had an important role to play in lobbying their respective countries and regions.
First Minister Foster told MLAs: “They will influence and lobby other governments’ decision makers to help promote our economic priorities including tourism, businesses and education. This includes lobbying for market access, engaging with governments to get favourable relationships for our businesses and universities and promoting our agriculture and tourism offering. Each of our overseas offices will help to identify economic opportunities with other governments and will work with Invest NI, Tourism Ireland and other organisations as part of a corporate approach to developing these opportunities.”
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.
- The latest Covid-19 update on Covid-19 is also available at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/COVID%20update%20for%20Executive%2008%20June.pdf
- 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
- 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.
- Information on each Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs owned forest and country park and the services available at them will be updated regularly on www.nidirect.gov.uk/public-forests.
- Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses:
- 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
- For out of office hours media queries, contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
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