Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (29 May 2020)

Date published: 29 May 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

Economy Minister Diane Dodds today published an outline plan for the recovery of the economy as it emerges from the Covid-19 lockdown.

Under the plan, the implementation of which will be guided by the latest scientific and medical advice, the economy will be helped to get moving again by:

  • Building confidence in the construction and manufacturing sectors continuing to move out of lockdown while staying safe and working safe;
  • Continuing to emphasise and promote the trends for home working for businesses in the financial, professional services and IT sectors, ensuring that those who can work at home continue to do so;
  • Extending Step 1’s relaxation of the restrictions on garden centres to include other outdoor non-food retailers such as new and used car dealerships and large machinery retailers – a move which has already been provisionally agreed by the Executive to start from 8 June; and
  • from 8 June as part of Step 2, opening non-food retail with lower frequency retail activities and/or larger store areas such as those selling household electrical appliances, mobile phones and furniture stores – a move which has also been provisionally agreed by the Executive. This will only apply where outlets have direct street access or direct access within a retail park and where social distancing can be implemented.

Confirming her Department is planning more publications in the coming weeks on restoring the economy, Minister Dodds acknowledged: “The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on our economy. Each month of shutdown is akin to a large recession. The longer people are removed from the labour market, the greater the risk of long-term scarring on our economy and society. We need to take action now to help the economy recover. This will be gradual and in stages.”

As with other Executive decisions on emerging from lockdown, progress along the pathway to recovery for the economy will be determined by the rate of transmission of Covid-19.

Many companies have adapted their working practices and protocols or are preparing to do so, particularly in the wider manufacturing and food production sectors. The measures they have introduced have included moving to straight production lines to facilitate two metre distancing, adding Perspex walkways, splitting work patterns and sittings in canteens, having appropriate PPE and increasing the cleaning of premises.

The Minister added: “I will do everything I can to protect individuals and livelihoods which support families and communities across Northern Ireland. A coordinated approach across the Executive will be required to help our businesses get back up and running and workplaces operating safely. Other important issues including childcare, public transport and management of the footfall on city centre streets will also need to be considered alongside our plans for the economy.”

The Department will in the near future publish papers on further steps for the retail sector, how vulnerable but viable businesses will be supported through the next phases, support for the unemployed to retrain and upskill and how the Executive will deliver on the commitment for a strong, competitive and regionally balanced economy during challenging times.

The Engagement Forum, chaired by the Labour Relations Agency, has also published workplace safety guidance. These live documents set out principles and practical steps to help employers, employees and the self-employed keep workplaces safe.

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots announced today that some routine inspections by his Department, which were paused in the interests of public health, will restart in the coming days and weeks.

The Minister confirmed while some routine inspections will recommence almost immediately, others will not.

Minister Poots explained: “The checks and inspections that DAERA undertakes are vital to protect human health, trade, animal welfare, plant health and the environment. I want to gradually reintroduce our inspections programme to add to the essential ones that carried on during lockdown. My officials have been looking at workarounds and alternative strategies to deliver our services to ensure the safety of both our staff and the public. My focus remains on supporting business, keeping supply chains operational and ensuring public and animal health is protected along with the environment.”

The extensive environmental monitoring and surveillance programme undertaken by DAERA will also be gradually run up again. These programmes provide essential data on terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems along with water and air quality.

Information from these programmes is used to assess the state of the environment, identify potential risks to public health and provide the basis of decisions on authorisations and policy.

The efforts of volunteers to ensure people have continued to receive medicine during the Covid-19 pandemic was praised by the Health Minister Robin Swann.

During a visit to Gordon’s chemist in Ballymoney, were he met some of the volunteers of the medicines delivery service, the Minister revealed almost 34,000 home deliveries of medicines have taken place across Northern Ireland.

A total of 252 pharmacies have registered to be part of the delivery service, commissioned by the Health and Social Care Board and coordinated by the Community Development and Health Network, with 120 community groups also volunteering their time.

Minister Swann said: “I’m aware that community pharmacies have been working extremely hard to meet the increased demand for home deliveries of medicines within their communities and I thank them for all their hard work. During this outbreak, we have seen many excellent examples of volunteering in the battle against Covid-19. I was fortunate to meet Anne and her granddaughter Olivia today and they are a great example of what can be achieved when a community works together. I am very appreciative of the work co-ordinated by Community Development Health Network and carried out by the volunteer network which is helping to ensure that people have access to their prescription medicines.”

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. 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
  4. 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.
  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.
  6. 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.
  7. The online version of the app is hosted on a new website https://covid-19.hscni.net.
  8. 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.
  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. For more information on the routine DAERA inspections that will continue to be paused, visit: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/routine-inspections-investigations-continued-pause. Further enquiries should be directed to COVID19.Enquiry@daera-ni.gov.uk.  
  27. The community delivery service is a temporary arrangement to support community pharmacies as they cope with additional demands during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. More information on the scheme can be found on the Community Development and Health Network website at www.cdhn.org/community-support-community-pharmacy-faqs.
  28. 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: 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

29. For out of office hours media queries, contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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