Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (8 April 2020)

Date published: 08 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

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey allocated £1.5 million today to local councils to help those most in need during the COVID-19 emergency.

The initial tranche of funding, which comes from the COVID-19 Community Support Fund, will be directed at members of the public who are most at risk from financial stress, for access to food and for those living alone or in rural and border communities where access to services is especially challenging.

The £1.5 million will be distributed among the 11 councils on the basis of population size and deprivation statistics.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds highlighted how members of the public currently on furlough could find work in key services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

With demand for labour high in sectors like health, retail and agri-food, Minister Dodds urged those seeking alternative employment to register using the Job Centre Online web link and to also avail of help from Department for Economy’s Career Advisers who could help match relevant skills to available jobs.

The Minister said: “You can make initial contact via our careers webchat or email service and an adviser will contact you usually within one working day. For employers who are experiencing issues filling vacancies, you can also register your opportunities using the Employers online facility. These sites are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and currently advertising over 6,000 positions per month across 20 different sectors.”

A furloughed employee can work for another employer while furloughed, so long as it is permitted by their employment contract and they are not making money or providing services to the employer from which they are furloughed.

Minister Dodds took time today to thank Northern Ireland’s telecoms workers for their provision of a vital service during the COVID-19 crisis.

Following the recent vandalism of a telephone mast in Belfast, the Minister also lambasted those who falsely linked the roll-out of 5G to the spread of COVID-19, warning that these unfounded claims not only fuelled anxiety but were used to justify arson attacks and the abuse of telecoms engineers while on duty.

Health Minister Robin Swann announced a number of routine screening programmes in the health service have been put on pause to enable staff and resources to be reallocated to tackling COVID-19.

The move, which follows the announcement of plans to suspend non-urgent outpatient appointments and non-urgent surgical admissions impacts:

  • routine cervical cancer screening,
  • routine breast cancer screening,
  • bowel cancer screening,
  • abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening and surveillance monitoring, and
  • routine diabetic eye screening and surveillance monitoring.

Screening will continue to be offered for people who require:

  • higher risk breast screening,
  • diabetic eye screening for pregnant women,
  • newborn bloodspot screening,
  • newborn hearing screening, (this programme will be focused on completing screening prior to discharge from maternity units only)
  • antenatal infections screening, and
  • Smear tests for non-routine cervical screening (e.g. repeat tests requested by colposcopy or the laboratory)

Trusts are in the process of writing out to affected patients to inform them of the impact of this decision on their individual appointments.

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, nidirect, 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. Employers can register at Employers Online: www.employersonlineni.com
  14. Jobseekers can register at JobCentre Online: www.jobcentreonline.com
  15. The Careers Service can be contacted online at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/careers
  16. Coronavirus support for businesses and employers: www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-business-and-employers
  17. Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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