Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (2 April 2020)

Date published: 02 April 2020

Northern Ireland Executive ministers and their officials have over the last 24 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.

Covid-19 Executive Update
Covid-19 Executive Update

Belfast City Hospital’s tower block was designated by the Department of Health as Northern Ireland’s first Nightingale Hospital ahead of the anticipated surge in Covid-19 cases.

The 230 bed facility will be staffed by healthcare staff drawn from across Northern Ireland and further critical care capacity is planned at Altnagelvin Hospital and the Ulster Hospital.

Based on surge modelling, the Department is continuing to assess the potential of the Eikon Centre at Balmoral Park, Maze as a second Nightingale facility to further increase bed capacity later this year in preparation for any further wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Robin Swann has again stressed the importance of everyone sticking firmly to social distancing measures now and in the coming weeks to limit the number of cases coming to the health frontline when the first wave reaches its peak.

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill took part in a conference call with the Mental Health Policy Group, comprising health professionals and charities, and discussed issues raised by the Covid-19 crisis.

The Executive is conscious at this time that the Covid-19 emergency may present new and difficult challenges for those who suffer from anxiety and other mental health issues.

Support is available to those suffering from mental health challenges and anyone in distress or despair is encouraged to contact the 24/7 Lifeline helpline on 0808 808 8000 where trained counsellors are available to help.

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has called on farmers and land managers to halt all prescribed burning in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic in a bid to reduce additional pressures on Northern Ireland’s emergency services.

Prescribed burning is a method of land management that usually takes place in mid-March to mid-April to improve game habitat and the quality of grazing in areas of upland dominated by heather.

However Minister Poots and Assistant Chief Fire and Rescue Officer Alan Walmsley have called for them to be halted until September 1 because of the potential danger of wildfires being started.

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: 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: 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. 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.
  7. Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/.
  8. 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
  9. 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.
  10. A link to the guidance on schools clustering is available here: www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements 
  11. Media enquiries to the TEO Press Office on 028 9037 8201. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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