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.
Four major supermarket chains will ensure people forced to shield during the Covid-19 crisis will get priority home delivery slots, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and Health Minister Robin Swann announced today.
The agreement emerged after discussions involving officials from the Department for Communities and the Health and Social Care Board with Asda, Iceland, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Noting almost 80,000 people in Northern Ireland had been advised by their GP to self-isolate during the pandemic, Minister Hargey said those impacted could register online to be considered for the priority delivery slots by filling in a form available on NI Direct.
The Minister explained: “It will ask you to confirm if your GP has advised you to self-isolate, your name, address and email, and that you agree for us to share your data. My Department will then check your eligibility and share your details with the four retailers. The retailers will contact you directly to advise what delivery slots are available. Work continues to examine the ways in which support of this type could be provided to all of those most vulnerable.”
Welcoming the announcement, Minister Swann added: “This collaboration between the Department for Communities, the HSCB and retailers will provide peace of mind to our most vulnerable, knowing that they have access to this essential service and will be able to get the food that they need, delivered straight to their home. Finding a solution that was safe and secure was a huge undertaking and I am grateful to all those who have worked hard to make this happen.”
Council workers were told their jobs do qualify for protection under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
Following consultation with the 11 councils and the Department of Finance, Minister Hargey was able to confirm to the Executive that local government could apply under the scheme to furlough staff.
Economy Minister Diane Dodds announced today a £40 million Hardship Fund is being made available to microbusinesses who cannot avail of the existing support schemes during the Covid-19 lockdown.
With an estimated 8,000 businesses across Northern Ireland eligible for the fund, Minister Dodds explained: “Social enterprises and charities will be able to access the fund if they meet the eligibility criteria.
“Details on the scheme, including eligibility criteria and arrangements for applying, will be released next week. This fund should mean that around a third of all businesses in Northern Ireland will now be able to access support under the Northern Ireland Covid-19 grant schemes.”
Minister Dodds also visited today the Southern Regional College’s Lurgan campus to see how one of their teams has used laser cutting technology to produce 1,000 face shields for frontline health workers in over four weeks.
The PPE produced on the Lurgan campus has been distributed to the Newry Hospice, community nursing and acute care teams in the Southern Trust, the Leonard Cheshire Care Home, Aughnacloy Care Home, Gordons Chemist, R4 Recycling, the support team in Newry Care Home, the Ulster Hospital, Banbridge community nurses, Hills Pharmacy, Orchard Pharmacy, Sandringham Care Home, the Samuel Kelly Care Home and Ashgrove Nursing Home.
The Minister noted: “Since the campus was closed to students, the team at Southern Regional College in Lurgan have been producing plastic facial visors at pace. To have reached the milestone of 1,000 pieces made in such a short period of time is testament to their dedication, skill and hard work.”
Health Minister Robin Swann also paid tribute to the team, saying: “The provision of PPE to our frontline workers is an absolute priority. We continue to actively pursue all feasible supply routes for PPE, both locally and internationally. The work being undertaken by SRC’s Lurgan campus staff is just one example of the amazing response we have seen from all parts of society as we work together to tackle the impact of Covid-19.”
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon announced plans for a new walking and cycling champion with a particular focus on transforming communities and developing creative solutions during and post the Covid-19 lockdown.
In a statement to the Assembly, Minister Mallon told MLAs: “Our champion will ensure that we deliver our commitment to increase the percentage of journeys made by walking and cycling. Inspiring our communities, restructuring our spaces, changing forever the way we live – and changing it for the better.
“As the Executive looks this week to review the lockdown – we all need to be looking ahead – out of the darkness of this pandemic and into a better world that we need to build for ourselves. Greener, cleaner, healthier and happier people and places must be our aim as we learn to live with this new normal during and after Covid-19.”
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: 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 Help Lines 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: 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: 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: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/RentalPropertiesandNAVBelow1590
- Information on the full range of Covid-19 related support for businesses is available at: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business
- Registration for the supermarket deliveries priority scheme for those people asked to shield during the Covid-19 crisis can be completed by filling in the form at the following nidirect link: www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/priority-online-food-delivery
- 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: email@example.com
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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