NI Executive Update For Coronavirus For 17 June 2020

Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (17 June 2020).

Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (17 June 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.

A service that has delivered over 150,000 food boxes to those most in need during the Covid-19 emergency is to continue beyond June, Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín confirmed today.

The £6.3 million service, which the Department has run in conjunction with local councils and voluntary and community organisations, has delivered food parcels every week during lockdown to the homes of vulnerable people who have been advised to shield by their GPs and cannot access food through online shopping, family, friends or local support networks.

The boxes have also been made available to those not shielding and in critical need of food.

As part of her Department’s transition back to normal services, Deirdre Hargey, who has had to stand down temporarily from her role as Communities Minister for health reasons, decided to invest £1.5million in an extension to the food parcel programme beyond 26 June.

Minister Ní Chuilín, who will oversee the transition, said: “I am delighted this vital service will continue for those who are receiving a food box and shielding as advised by their GP – those who can’t get out to get food and are unable to get food in because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“I would also like to offer my sincere thanks to Advice NI for managing the Covid-19 Community Helpline. This has been a vital resource that has ensured people who are in critical need have received the right support in the midst of this health emergency.”

Economy Minister Diane Dodds revealed today the full membership of a reconstituted advisory group tasked with looking at the rebuilding of the Northern Ireland economy following the Covid-19 lockdown.

The 11-panel Economic Advisory Group will be chaired by Ellvena Graham, former head of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland.

It is also comprised of Neil Gibson (Chief Economist, EY), Paul Vernon (CEO, Glanbia Cheese), Nick Coburn (MD, Ulster Carpets/DIT Strategic Advisory Board), Michael Ryan (VP and GM, Bombardier), Steve Orr (CEO, Catalyst), Rose Mary Stalker (Chair, Invest NI), Lisa McLaughlin (Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills), Dr Rob Grundy (Chair, MATRIX), Tina McKenzie (CEO, Grafton Recruitment) and Brendan Mooney (CEO, Kainos).

Minister Dodds said: “I look forward to working closely with Ellvena and the other members of the advisory group. I have no doubt that their combined business expertise will lead to advice and recommendations which will be extremely valuable to me as we plan for the future.”

The Minister also published a medium term economic recovery plan covering the next 12 to 18 months.

Rebuilding a Stronger Economy‘ sets out a framework to deliver higher paying jobs, a highly skilled workforce and a more regionally balanced economy.

Health Minister Robin Swann insisted greater nursing support for care homes must form part of a new future for the sector.

Reaffirming his determination to secure investment and reform in social care, the Minister announced plans to introduce a new framework for nursing, medical and multidisciplinary in-reach into care homes.

He also confirmed work was being taken by his officials to learn from the experiences in care homes of Covid-19.

Minister Swann said: “We must learn from the experiences of the past number of months, including what worked well. Together with the care home sector, we will work to implement measures that can have a positive impact. This is fundamental in protecting our care home population in any future surge.”

The Minister paid tribute today to Belfast-based researchers involved in ground-breaking research into the DNA make-up of the Covid-19 virus.

The project, involving Queen’s University and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, is part of the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium which is helping to track the spread and behaviour of the Coronavirus.

Minister Swann said: “I am delighted that Northern Ireland researchers are heavily involved in this crucial area of work. The battle against Covid-19 will be a long haul and improved scientific understanding of the virus is essential if we are to prevail against it.”

The role of Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service staff on the frontline during Covid-19 health emergency was also singled out for praise today by the Minister.

Minister Swann observed: “Our fire and rescue service have a long and proud tradition of reacting and working swiftly, effectively and above all selflessly in times of crises. There has never been a greater need to call on that tradition. I know that NIFRS are responding accordingly in the spirit of wider collaboration with the health family and I wish to place on record my thanks for your support. Like all our frontline services, Covid-19 has presented innumerable challenges over the past number of months but, despite this, the service responded to almost 500 additional incidents over the period and for that I’m very grateful.”

Education Minister Peter Weir expressed his Department’s gratitude too to schools for their ensuring examinations data has been submitted for this summer’s alternative awarding system for GCSE, AS and A Levels.

Minister Weir said: “School leaders and teachers have made an incredible effort to meet the challenge of responding to an alternative awarding system in such a short space of time. 

“I understand that the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) is already working through the data and ensuring that all candidates, including private candidates, will have fair grades when it comes to issuing results in August.

“However, what schools have delivered in a matter of weeks to make this possible is remarkable. I want to thank teachers for the way they have all stepped up to this challenge and engaged with the process.”