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.
Economy Minister Diane Dodds announced the establishment of a Tourism Recovery Steering Group to lead planning and preparations for the recovery of the industry after the Covid-19 threat has receded.
With the sector employing 65,000 people prior to the pandemic and generating £1 billion in revenue last year, the industry has had to deal with the closure of borders and air routes and the lockdown of entire regions.
The Covid-19 emergency has also occurred at the end of low season when cash reserves in the industry are at their lowest and it has obliterated the spring and summer trade when the sector does 70% of its business.
The steering group, which will be chaired by Minister Dodds, will include representation from key public and private industry stakeholders and will be supported by a working group chaired by the chief executive of Tourism Northern Ireland, John McGrillen. Members will be tasked with coming up with recommendations for the recovery and regrowth of the industry.
Minister Dodds said: “Once current restrictions begin to lift, and the impact of the virus begins to recede, Northern Ireland’s tourism sector will have an important role to play in our economic recovery.
“The impact the current crisis will have on the global tourism industry will be profound and the nature of tourism markets, and indeed the industry itself, will be fundamentally different to that which existed before the crisis.
“While I do not underestimate the many challenges and uncertainties that the weeks and months ahead will bring, I believe the time is now right to put in place the structures that will help support recovery and prepare the industry to respond when consumer demand ultimately returns. The work of the Tourism Recovery Steering Group will be of critical importance. I and my department will provide all the support we can for this much-needed initiative.”
Financial support has been made available to tourism businesses, including access to a £10,000 small business grant and bespoke aid worth £25,000 for around 4,000 companies in the retail, tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000.
Over 23,000 food packages have been delivered to the most vulnerable in society during the Covid-19 emergency, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey revealed today.
The figures emerged as the Minister visited Mid Ulster District Council’s Food Distribution Centre at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown – one of 24 food distribution centres established by the councils – and also Duncairn Arts Centre food hub in north Belfast, which is operated by the 174 Trust.
The food package service has been in operation since 7 April and was set up to help those struggling to access food due to the Covid-19 pandemic, including those who have to shield for medical conditions or are financially vulnerable.
Packages are delivered to the Council hubs and, from there, are distributed by council employees, often working with local voluntary and community organisations.
Minister Hargey commented: “I have been impressed with how quickly and effectively partners have pulled together to mobilise this scheme. It was heartening to hear from those delivering the food parcels to the doors of those in need of the positive impact the service is having on their lives at this difficult time.”
A decision by the Northern Ireland Livestock and Auctioneers’ Association (NILAA) to open Livestock Marts on a gradual basis from 27 April 2020 was welcomed today by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
The marts closed voluntarily on the 23 March 2020 in response to Covid-19 health and safety concerns. Mart operators have also trialled successfully a number of online sales and are now gradually moving towards re-opening on a phased basis from 27 April, with some restrictions in place.
A DAERA spokesman said: “Farmers are key workers and are continuing to provide food for us all in very challenging circumstances. Part of that food supply chain is the ability to trade and sell animals.
“Staff within the Department have maintained regular contact with Livestock Mart operators over recent weeks and have been reassured that robust operational protocols, developed by the Marts in conjunction with other stakeholders, will enable them to conduct business in a manner that is safe for staff, farmers and buyers and adheres to social distancing requirements.
“DAERA therefore welcomes the decision to recommence sales of primestock, cull animals and store stock on a gradual basis from week commencing 27 April.”
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.
- 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.
- 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
- Information on the full range of support for businesses during the Covid-19 emergency is available at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business
- The Department for Communities’ Community Response Plan is available at https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/covid19-community-response.
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