Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (6 April 2020)
Northern Ireland Executive Ministers and their officials have over the last 48 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.
The first NHS consignment of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for frontline health and social care workers arrived today.
Health Minister Robin Swann visited the main PPE distribution centre in Belfast as the batch of 1,320,000 aprons and 307,800 FFP3 respirator masks arrived.
Out of a total order of 5.5 million PPE items, this morning’s delivery comprised around 50% of the aprons from the NHS consignment and approximately 40% of the FFP3 respirator masks.
The remainder is expected early this week.
Minister Swann said there was sufficient stock for current demand but the Executive continued to work hard to secure more supplies from international and local supply routes, given anticipated future demand and the likelihood for a second surge of Covid-19 this year.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy, Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon today jointly urged the UK Government to put in place support for Northern Ireland’s airports and ports during the Covid-19 crisis.
Following what was described as a productive phone call with the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis, Ministers said they had impressed on them the importance for the local economy of connectivity from Northern Ireland’s three airports and its ports and the need for financial assistance.
All routine DAERA inspections of businesses, industry and utility services were today suspended until April 30 by the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots.
This follows on from an earlier decision to pause routine farm inspections and is a further response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Inspections paused by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Veterinary Service Animal Health Group, Food and Farming Group and Marine and Fisheries Division include routine inspections under public health protection, pollution prevention and control of industrial emissions, waste and water regulations, the ABP and TSE regulations and some marine and fisheries activities.
The full list of inspections that have been suspended can be obtained at the following link: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/news/minister-pauses-all-routine-daera-inspections and the situation will be kept under constant review.
On Sunday, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced a new weekly delivery service is being launched which will see 10,000 food boxes made available to the most vulnerable in society during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The weekly box of mainly non-perishable goods will be delivered directly to the door of vulnerable people who cannot afford food, have been notified to self-isolate by their GPs and who do not have access to local support networks. The boxes will also be available to those who are not shielding, but are in critical need of food.
The Department is leading the initiative that has been made possible through collaborative working with Health Trusts, local councils, the Voluntary and Community sector and the private sector. Food suppliers will provide the boxes to local councils and they will include items such as tinned food, dried food and soap alongside some fresh fruit and bread.
Minister Hargey also took time today to thank everyone who is working hard to support all those who find themselves in a homelessness situation during the Coronavirus outbreak, noting for the second week running there was no-one reported as sleeping rough in the streets of Belfast and Derry~Londonderry.
The NI Housing Executive’s central planning team continues to work hard with the Department for Communities, Public Health Agency, the Department of Health, PSNI, the Probation Board and local homeless providers and has approved a number of emergency measures, including the sourcing of additional temporary accommodation for those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.
The Minister also postponed the Housing Executive’s rent increase of 2.7% that was poised to come into effect today.
It will not now come into effect until the beginning of October 2020.
Education Minister Peter Weir issued a fresh appeal today for more volunteers to urgently assist in the provision of supervision for vulnerable children and the children of key workers
While the Minister said he was encouraged by the support so far and thanked those involved, Minister Weir said he was extending his call for volunteers to include all members of schools’ Boards of Governors, retired teachers, retired classroom assistants and colleagues from the wider education sector.
Those wishing to apply should complete a registration form on the Department of Education’s website.