Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (6 April 2020)

Date published: 06 April 2020

Northern Ireland Executive Ministers and their officials have over the last 48 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 first NHS consignment of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for frontline health and social care workers arrived today.

Health Minister Robin Swann visited the main PPE distribution centre in Belfast as the batch of 1,320,000 aprons and 307,800 FFP3 respirator masks arrived.

Out of a total order of 5.5 million PPE items, this morning’s delivery comprised around 50% of the aprons from the NHS consignment and approximately 40% of the FFP3 respirator masks.

The remainder is expected early this week.

Minister Swann said there was sufficient stock for current demand but the Executive continued to work hard to secure more supplies from international and local supply routes, given anticipated future demand and the likelihood for a second surge of Covid-19 this year.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy, Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon today jointly urged the UK Government to put in place support for Northern Ireland’s airports and ports during the Covid-19 crisis.

Following what was described as a productive phone call with the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis, Ministers said they had impressed on them the importance for the local economy of connectivity from Northern Ireland’s three airports and its ports and the need for financial assistance.

All routine DAERA inspections of businesses, industry and utility services were today suspended until April 30 by the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots.

This follows on from an earlier decision to pause routine farm inspections and is a further response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inspections paused by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Veterinary Service Animal Health Group, Food and Farming Group and Marine and Fisheries Division include routine inspections under public health protection, pollution prevention and control of industrial emissions, waste and water regulations, the ABP and TSE regulations and some marine and fisheries activities.

The full list of inspections that have been suspended can be obtained at the following link: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/news/minister-pauses-all-routine-daera-inspections and the situation will be kept under constant review.

On Sunday, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced a new weekly delivery service is being launched which will see 10,000 food boxes made available to the most vulnerable in society during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The weekly box of mainly non-perishable goods will be delivered directly to the door of vulnerable people who cannot afford food, have been notified to self-isolate by their GPs and who do not have access to local support networks. The boxes will also be available to those who are not shielding, but are in critical need of food.

The Department is leading the initiative that has been made possible through collaborative working with Health Trusts, local councils, the Voluntary and Community sector and the private sector. Food suppliers will provide the boxes to local councils and they will include items such as tinned food, dried food and soap alongside some fresh fruit and bread.

Minister Hargey also took time today to thank everyone who is working hard to support all those who find themselves in a homelessness situation during the Coronavirus outbreak, noting for the second week running there was no-one reported as sleeping rough in the streets of Belfast and Derry~Londonderry.

The NI Housing Executive’s central planning team continues to work hard with the Department for Communities, Public Health Agency, the Department of Health, PSNI, the Probation Board and local homeless providers and has approved a number of emergency measures, including the sourcing of additional temporary accommodation for those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

The Minister also postponed the Housing Executive’s rent increase of 2.7% that was poised to come into effect today.

It will not now come into effect until the beginning of October 2020.

Education Minister Peter Weir issued a fresh appeal today for more volunteers to urgently assist in the provision of supervision for vulnerable children and the children of key workers

While the Minister said he was encouraged by the support so far and thanked those involved, Minister Weir said he was extending his call for volunteers to include all members of schools’ Boards of Governors, retired teachers, retired classroom assistants and colleagues from the wider education sector. 

Those wishing to apply should complete a registration form on the Department of Education’s website.

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. 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.
  9. 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
  10. 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.
  11. A link to the guidance on schools clustering is available here: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements
  12. 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
  13. More information about Covid-19 related announcements by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs can be accessed via https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/daera-covid-19-q and https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-access-government-services
  14. Media enquiries to the TEO Press Office at press.office@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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