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.
Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín today announced the extension of safeguard measures during the Covid-19 emergency for those claiming disability benefits.
The Minister’s predecessor, Deirdre Hargey, announced in March that the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) would be suspended up to the end of June 2020.
These will now be extended, with telephony assessments carried out where appropriate.
Minister Ní Chuilín explained: “Review activity will gradually resume from 21 July for PIP and Disability Living Allowance and measures have been put in place to ensure the payment of benefit continues until the review has concluded. If people experience a change in their needs, they are still encouraged to contact the Department to ensure they are receiving the correct level of support. These measures are to reassure vulnerable people about the continuity of their benefits during the Coronavirus outbreak and to ensure the Department’s resources are focused on enabling access to financial support for people who need it. During these very challenging times my priority continues to be protecting the health and well-being of those using and delivering these vital services across our communities.”
Members of the public were today urged by the Health Minister Robin Swann to be ready to play their part in helping the Test, Trace and Protect strategy minimise the spread of Covid-19.
During Oral Questions in the Assembly, the Minister said the Public Health Agency-led strategy adopted a robust approach to containing the Coronavirus, based around four key elements:
- The early identification and isolation of possible cases, clusters and outbreaks;
- Rapid testing of possible cases;
- The Tracing of close contacts of cases; and
- Early, effective and supported isolation of close contacts to prevent onward transmission of infection.
However Minister Swann warned everyone must be prepared for the possibility that they, along with members of their household, might have to self-isolate and be tested for Covid-19.
He added: “For Test, Trace and Protect to work, each citizen in Northern Ireland has a very important role to play. We must all prepare for the possibility of having to self-isolate and prepare to be tested in order to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. I recognise that in some cases there may be some financial disincentives to self-isolation and further work is required to address those barriers. The approach I have outlined is likely to become part of everyday life for the foreseeable future for the people of Northern Ireland until an effective vaccine is developed and a vaccination programme for Covid-19 has been delivered.”
The Minister told MLAs that along with physical distancing and good hand and respiratory hygiene, Test, Trace and Protect would help minimise community transmission.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- The latest update on Covid-19 is also available at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/COVID%20update%20for%20Executive%2008%20June.pdf
- 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 and should book a test immediately via can be booked by phoning 119 or through the website nhs.uk/coronavirus. Tests are available for everyone over the age of five.
- The ‘Test, Trace and Protect’ strategy can be accessed via: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/Test-Trace-Protect-Support-Strategy.pdf
- The Department of Health NI’s Covid-19 NI information app provides 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.
- 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: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/weekly-deaths.
- 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 Covid-19 related support for businesses is available at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business.
- The ‘Charting a course for the economy: our first steps’ paper can be accessed at: www.economy-ni.gov.uk/publications/charting-course-economy
- Workplace safety guidance for Northern Ireland businesses is available at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-workplace-safety-guidance-and-priority-sector-list
- 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
25. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.