Our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic must focus on making people’s lives better, the First Minister and deputy First Minister have said.
The Ministers were speaking after a Covid recovery summit with government counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales.
First Minister Arlene Foster said:
“The four nations have stood shoulder-to-shoulder over the last 16 months of this pandemic. Through collaborative working we have been able to achieve progress, particularly through the roll-out of the UK-wide vaccines programme.
“Today in our first four nation recovery summit we have had constructive engagement on a range of complex and interconnected issues.
“It is clear that we have significant challenges to overcome. Our priorities must be to create a fit for purpose health and social care service, to ensure the best education for our children and to have good quality jobs. Skills are key, and it was useful to have the opportunity to press for a sector-specific retention of the furlough scheme for the aerospace industry.
“We are not content to simply press the reset button and return to the old normal. We share a determination to come back stronger, with improved public services and a prosperous economy.
“After a harrowing year, this is about making people’s lives better and I welcome the ongoing commitment to continued dialogue and discussion on how best we achieve this together.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said:
“The pandemic has challenged every administration across the world and impacted all aspects of life and society. And while no one will ever forget the pain and hardship that Covid-19 inflicted, now is the time to look forward and implement a sustainable programme of recovery. In doing so, it will be important that we work in partnership across the Executive, and with counterparts north-south and east-west to drive progress.
“Our fundamental focus in recovery must be about making things better for people. The absolute priority for the Executive must be working together to rebuild a health service that provides first class care for people when they need it, and drive down waiting lists. At today’s meeting I pressed the need for investment in the health service to tackle this crucial issue.
“Our recovery will also be about creating opportunities and jobs for people; and tackling inequalities. We know that the pandemic disproportionately affected those who are vulnerable and less well off. In recovery, there is an opportunity to reset and change how things are done to ensure a fairer and more equal society that supports those who need it most.”