Executive Daily Update On Dealing With Coronavirus (7 May 2020)

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.

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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. This is to satisfy the demand for public travel while facilitating social distancing, announced Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon 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: “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. 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.”

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.

  • 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.