Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (21 April 2020)

Date published: 21 April 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.

Covid-19 Executive Update
Covid-19 Executive Update

The Department of Health today launched an online version of the Covid-19 NI app to help people across Northern Ireland stay informed about the Coronavirus.

The website, which is designed to reach those who do not have a smartphone but are able to use a computer or tablet, provides advice on Covid-19 and its symptoms and also information on the community services available for the most vulnerable.

In conjunction with the 111 NI Helpline, the app and website are designed to relieve pressure on frontline care services by answering queries and helping members of the public to:

  • decide if they, or someone they care for, have the symptoms of coronavirus;
  • understand the severity of their symptoms and what to do and how to cope;
  • decide if they need to get clinical advice and how to access it;
  • access specific advice for vulnerable members of the community;
  • get an isolation note if they are advised to self-isolate;
  • ask specific questions of the advice and guidance using a smart search ‘chat-bot’ that searches FAQs for relevant information; and
  • find links to other trusted information resources.

The mobile smartphone app has been widely downloaded with over 48,000 active users and up to 6,000 people using it each day to assess their symptoms, or find other information. It has, to date, attracted strong approval ratings from users in Northern Ireland.

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots wrote to key workers in the waste industry today to express his gratitude for their continuing efforts to protect public health and the environment during the Covid-19 emergency.

The letter from Minister Poots read: “It is key workers such as yourselves, who are vital to keeping our country going throughout these trying times. To those who have helped maintain kerbside collections, those responsible for municipal cleansing, the people working in our recycling centres, treatment plants, recovery facilities, those maintaining our disposal sites and to everyone working behind the scenes to make sure our waste is dealt with properly – thank you.

“Your continued work through such difficult times, has helped to ensure public health and the environment are protected. Your contribution has been essential to society and the economy – the importance of which should not be understated.”

Minister Poots repeated his call for members of the public to respect waste industry workers and to follow the guidance on washing their hands and disinfecting their wheelie and recycling bin handles before putting them out for collection.

Minister Poots and the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service also issued an appeal to farmers and the public for their help during the current dry weather to avoid wildfires during the Covid-19 crisis.

With the recent spell of hot and dry weather leaving the countryside vulnerable to fires caused by burning of vegetation or waste, he warned the littering and dumping of waste materials would not only damage the environment but put the emergency services, other human lives, property and wildlife at risk.

Minister Poots stressed: “It is important that we all play our part in protecting our communities and vulnerable citizens during this national emergency, to ensure that we do not add unnecessary pressures to the emergency services. I’m urging the public to take extreme caution because wildfires could result in tragedy for people caught in the line of a fire – don’t burn waste or vegetation and don’t fly-tip or drop litter.”

If you see a fire in the countryside:

  • report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service;
  • do not attempt to tackle fires that cannot be put out with a bucket of water;
  • leave the area as soon as possible; and
  • if you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI.

If you do know people who are fire setting, let the PSNI know to assist with prosecutions.

If you are in the countryside:

  • extinguish cigarettes and other flammable materials properly;
  • never throw cigarette ends out of car windows;
  • avoid using open fires in the countryside; and
  • be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.

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. Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/.
  14. 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.
  15. Statistics on weekly deaths registered in Northern Ireland can be accessed on NISRA’s website at: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/weekly-deaths
  16. 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
  17. 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.
  18. A link to the guidance on schools clustering is available here: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements
  19. 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
  20. Information on the full range of support for businesses is at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business
  21. Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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

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