Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (17 June 2020)

Date published: 17 June 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.

A service that has delivered over 150,000 food boxes to those most in need during the Covid-19 emergency is to continue beyond June, Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín confirmed today.

The £6.3 million service, which the Department has run in conjunction with local councils and voluntary and community organisations, has delivered food parcels every week during lockdown to the homes of vulnerable people who have been advised to shield by their GPs and cannot access food through online shopping, family, friends or local support networks.

The boxes have also been made available to those not shielding and in critical need of food.

As part of her Department’s transition back to normal services, Deirdre Hargey, who has had to stand down temporarily from her role as Communities Minister, decided to invest £1.5million in an extension to the food parcel programme beyond 26 June.

Minister Ní Chuilín, who will oversee the transition, said: “I am delighted this vital service will continue for those who are receiving a food box and shielding as advised by their GP – those who can’t get out to get food and are unable to get food in because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I would also like to offer my sincere thanks to Advice NI for managing the Covid-19 Community Helpline. This has been a vital resource that has ensured people who are in critical need have received the right support in the midst of this health emergency.”

Economy Minister Diane Dodds revealed today the full membership of a reconstituted advisory group tasked with looking at the rebuilding of the Northern Ireland economy following the Covid-19 lockdown.

The 11-panel Economic Advisory Group will be chaired by Ellvena Graham, former head of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland.

It is also comprised of Neil Gibson (Chief Economist, EY), Paul Vernon (CEO, Glanbia Cheese), Nick Coburn (MD, Ulster Carpets/DIT Strategic Advisory Board), Michael Ryan (VP and GM, Bombardier), Steve Orr (CEO, Catalyst), Rose Mary Stalker (Chair, Invest NI), Lisa McLaughlin (Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills), Dr Rob Grundy (Chair, MATRIX), Tina McKenzie (CEO, Grafton Recruitment) and Brendan Mooney (CEO, Kainos).

Minister Dodds said: “I look forward to working closely with Ellvena and the other members of the advisory group. I have no doubt that their combined business expertise will lead to advice and recommendations which will be extremely valuable to me as we plan for the future.”

The Minister also published a medium term economic recovery plan covering the next 12 to 18 months.

'Rebuilding a Stronger Economy' sets out a framework to deliver higher paying jobs, a highly skilled workforce and a more regionally balanced economy.

Health Minister Robin Swann insisted today greater nursing support for care homes must form part of a new future for the sector.

Reaffirming his determination to secure investment and reform in social care, the Minister announced plans to introduce a new framework for nursing, medical and multidisciplinary in-reach into care homes.

He also confirmed work was being taken by his officials to learn from the experiences in care homes of Covid-19.

Minister Swann said: “We must learn from the experiences of the past number of months, including what worked well. Together with the care home sector, we will work to implement measures that can have a positive impact. This is fundamental in protecting our care home population in any future surge.”

The Minister paid tribute today to Belfast-based researchers involved in ground-breaking research into the DNA make-up of the Covid-19 virus.

The project, involving Queen’s University and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, is part of the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium which is helping to track the spread and behaviour of the Coronavirus.

Minister Swann said: “I am delighted that Northern Ireland researchers are heavily involved in this crucial area of work. The battle against Covid-19 will be a long haul and improved scientific understanding of the virus is essential if we are to prevail against it.”

The role of Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service staff on the frontline during Covid-19 health emergency was also singled out for praise today by the Minister.

Minister Swann observed: “Our fire and rescue service have a long and proud tradition of reacting and working swiftly, effectively and above all selflessly in times of crises. There has never been a greater need to call on that tradition. I know that NIFRS are responding accordingly in the spirit of wider collaboration with the health family and I wish to place on record my thanks for your support. Like all our frontline services, Covid-19 has presented innumerable challenges over the past number of months but, despite this, the service responded to almost 500 additional incidents over the period and for that I’m very grateful.”

Education Minister Peter Weir expressed his Department’s gratitude too to schools for their ensuring examinations data has been submitted for this summer’s alternative awarding system for GCSE, AS and A Levels.

Minister Weir said: “School leaders and teachers have made an incredible effort to meet the challenge of responding to an alternative awarding system in such a short space of time.  I understand that the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) is already working through the data and ensuring that all candidates, including private candidates, will have fair grades when it comes to issuing results in August. However, what schools have delivered in a matter of weeks to make this possible is remarkable. I want to thank teachers for the way they have all stepped up to this challenge and engaged with the process.”

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  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. The latest 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. A Covid-19 statistical dashboard can also be viewed on the Department of Health’s website at: https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiMWFhZDgzZDYtMTE4Yi00MTBjLWIzYmQtMTZhYzc1MGEyMTk1IiwidCI6IjljOWEzMGRlLWQ4ZDctNGFhNC05NjAwLTRiZTc2MjVmZjZjNSIsImMiOjh9.
  9. 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.
  10. Psychological Support Help Lines will be staffed by psychologists and psychological therapists who can provide appropriate support throughout the surge phase of the crisis.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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. 
  14. 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
  15. Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/.
  16. 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.
  17. Statistics on weekly deaths registered in Northern Ireland can be accessed on NISRA’s website at: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/weekly-deaths.
  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. 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 
  24. The ‘Charting a course for the economy: our first steps’ paper can be accessed at: www.economy-ni.gov.uk/publications/charting-course-economy
  25. Workplace safety guidance for Northern Ireland businesses is available at https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-workplace-safety-guidance-and-priority-sector-list
  26. 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: 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

28. 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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