Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (3 April 2020)

Date published: 03 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

The Health and Social Care (HSC) system published its latest planning for the expected surge in the numbers of Covid-19 patients.

Under the plan, children’s and maternity services will be protected while contributing 130 beds to the overall surge response, as Belfast City Hospital’s Tower Block becomes Northern Ireland’s first Nightingale Hospital.

A regional plan has also been agreed with all Trusts and paediatric units which contains a number of steps that can be triggered depending on the pressures on services. Around 50 beds for adults could be made available when Step One is implemented. 

After careful consideration, it has also been agreed that while antenatal services will continue at Causeway Hospital, it will not be possible to deliver babies in the Causeway Hospital during the surge period because there will not be enough skilled paediatricians available to provide emergency care to a baby born in distress over a 24 hour period.

To protect the wellbeing of mothers and babies, women booked to deliver in Causeway will be contacted and have their delivery transferred to Antrim or Altnagelvin Hospital.

Maternity services in Daisy Hill, South West Acute, Craigavon, Altnagelvin, Antrim, the Ulster and the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital will continue.

There will be daily monitoring and communication across the paediatric network during the surge to ensure there is enough paediatric capacity to deliver safe urgent and emergency care for children right across Northern Ireland.

A £1.5 million support package for the fishing industry during the Covid-19 health emergency was announced by the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots.

The financial scheme is designed to prop up the fishing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, after social distancing measures and the collapse of the European and domestic fish markets have made trading virtually impossible.

Minister Poots said: “The scheme I’ve announced is the most far-reaching in the UK and will help the fishing fleet to cover their fixed costs for three months. It’s not an answer to everyone’s problems, but it will certainly help the fleet survive what has been one of its most difficult periods.”

The assistance will be for three months with a maximum amount of total funding per ‘undertaking’ capped at around £104,000.  It will be delivered via monthly payments depending on vessel size.

The Department will inform vessel owners in due course about how to apply for the scheme and provide further details including appeals.  It is anticipated that the first payments would be made early in May 2020.  

Members of the public were also urged today to protect waste sector workers by ensuring the right waste goes into the right bins.

Minister Poots said by recycling correctly, putting waste into the right bin and not dumping unwanted waste, they can help reduce risks to public health and support waste sector workers under increasing pressure.

The Minister has also established a Covid-19 Waste Group to provide support, guidance and regulatory direction to the waste sector.

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. 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: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements 
  11. Media enquiries to the TEO Press Office on press.office@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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