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.
Bus and rail services are to operate on a revised timetable from next week to satisfy demand while facilitating social distancing, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon announced today.
The decision was taken in light of increased numbers of people seeking to use Translink services over the past week.
With the revised timetable coming into effect on Monday 11 May 2020, Minister Mallon said: “The last week has seen a few of our larger employers re-open their businesses and, while the overall numbers using public transport remain low, this has resulted in an increase in people travelling on some of our bus and rail services. The safety of passengers and staff on our public transport network is my priority and with that in mind, I have approved a number of service adjustments.
"It is also important given the range of cross border bus and rail services that there is cooperation on transport on an all island basis. I will continue to work with Minister (Shane) Ross and the Irish Government to ensure there is a joined up approach on our transport network and clear communication is provided to passengers.”
Following the Executive’s recommendation that the public should use face coverings in enclosed spaces, the Minister said while it was not compulsory on buses and trains, people should consider wearing them even though they will not be turned away for not using them.
Translink staff engaging directly with the public will, where it is appropriate and in line with Public Health advice, wear face masks or face shields.
Health Minister Robin Swann stressed while members of the public were being urged to consider using face coverings, they would in no way reduce the need for social distancing or regular handwashing.
Minister Swann explained: “While evidence on the overall protection provided by face coverings is not conclusive, on balance it is sufficient to recommend that members of the public consider using them in particular circumstances. In practice, these circumstances will largely relate to public transport and retail environments.
“Their use will not be mandatory. Crucially, face coverings must not lead to any false sense of security about the level of protection provided. It is essential that everyone continues to practice social distancing as much as humanly possible, wash their hands thoroughly throughout the day and ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’ when they sneeze or cough. That’s still the best way to protect yourself and others from Covid-19.”
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots confirmed he is examining with Executive colleagues and the UK Government how to best support the farming industry following market disturbances caused by COVID-19.
Minister Poots was commenting after the UK was allowed to access an EU package of exceptional measures to support agriculture including Private Storage Aid for the dairy sector.
A new scheme to support dairy farmers in England announced by the UK will not, however, apply to Northern Ireland because of differences in the markets they supply, with the Department looking at other potential support measures instead.
The Minister added: “While I welcome acknowledgement by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice that farmers are facing financial difficulties, I have asked him to consider what enhanced funding the UK Government could provide and I continue to liaise with my Executive colleagues on what will be required to help support the agricultural industry as a result of 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: https://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 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.
- 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: 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.
- The online application form for small businesses that rent premises is available at: http://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/RentalPropertiesandNAVBelow1590.
- 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.
- Full details of Translink’s timetables are available on the public transport company’s website and journey planner: https://www.translink.co.uk/timetables.
- The latest traffic flow figures are available at https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/publications/traffic-flow-figures These are updated weekly. The figures are based on average traffic flows at 20 sites across NI. Figures are provided for weekday and weekend flows since Monday 30 March 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
- 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: DfE.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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