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.
Members of the public were today urged to keep following the public health advice if they want to roll back more restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the Bank Holiday weekend got underway, First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill called on members of the public to continue to drive down the rate of infection by limiting their activities in public and acting sensibly.
First Minister Foster told the Executive's daily press conference, where they were joined by the PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne: “In recent days, this Executive, guided by the scientific and medical advice, has begun to relax restrictions that we had no choice but to impose. Restoring those liberties in the face of a deadly virus has been hard won. We can win back even more if everyone remains patient, remains disciplined and remains focused on controlling the rate of infection. In the absence of a vaccine, the threat from the virus is no less than it was when we had to impose lockdown. Covid-19 is still lurking. It thrives when people become complacent. It spreads when people become blasé about public health advice and it kills when people start acting as if the threat is no longer with us.”
Deputy First Minister O'Neill added: “We have said before that the Coronavirus battle is going to be a partnership effectively between this Executive and our citizens. Our success will depend on everyone being sensible, thinking about others and respecting the social distancing and hygiene advice which is so critical in keeping the spread of the virus low. We have said that there is no relaxation of any measure that is not without risk. That is why our approach is cautious and incremental and why the actions of the public are so important. We do not want to be in the position of having to reimpose any restrictions. The best we can do to keep moving forward and the best way we can continue to recover is to follow the regulations that are in place. Keep two metres away from those who are not part of your household. Keep washing your hands and observing good hygiene."
Meanwhile landlords and tenants were urged today by the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to work together throughout the Covid-19 emergency and beyond.
Expressing her thanks to the vast majority of landlords, who have acted responsibly during this time, the Minister noted there had been reports on social media of some landlords issuing threatening letters to tenants.
Reminding the sector of the guidance and legislation in place, Minister Hargey said: “At this time of a public health emergency, it is vitally important that those who live in privately rented homes have the security of a roof over their heads.
“I have put in place legislation to ensure private tenants are protected from eviction during this Covid emergency. This important piece of legislation requires landlords to give 12 weeks’ Notice To Quit to their tenants, thus removing the threat of eviction at a time when people are being urged to stay at home as much as possible.”
Support is available for tenants struggling to pay their rent through loss of employment.
Buy-to-let landlords can also avail of a mortgage holiday.
The Minister added: “Guidance issued by my Department asks landlords to work with their tenants to plan ahead for the next few months. This could include establishing affordable repayment plans, taking into consideration tenants' individual circumstances, at the end of any mortgage holiday period. The Lord Chief Justice has issued guidance stating that when dealing with possession proceedings, judges shall take into account all circumstances, including the guidelines issued by the Department for Communities during this period of public health emergency. The legislation I have introduced combined with the guidance issued gives a clear message to the sector for the need for co-operation and good communication throughout this crisis.
“I am pleased so many landlords have worked with their tenants during these difficult times for all, but I am aware of a small minority who are ignoring the law and have blatantly stepped outside the guidance. This bullying behaviour is unacceptable and must stop. I would remind tenants and landlords that no one can be removed from their home without a court order. In these cases I would urge tenants to contact Housing Rights for help and advice. My Department funds this excellent service to ensure people have access to expert housing advice.”
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 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.
- 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.
- A £100million 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
- Housing Rights can be contacted online at www.housingadviceni.org/coronavirus or by calling 028 90245640. The Private Tenancies (Coronavirus Modifications) Act (Northern Ireland) 2020 was introduced by Accelerated Passage to ensure private tenants are protected from eviction during this Covid emergency. The guidance issued by the Department is available at www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/covid-19-guidance-private-rented-sector-landlords-and-tenants. It covers issues which may arise during the Covid-19 outbreak including what to do if your tenant is struggling to pay rent, advice around emergency repairs and information on minimising movement within rented accommodation and eviction proceedings. Guidance from the Lord Chief Justice is available at https://judiciaryni.uk/coronavirus-covid-19
- 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: 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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