Northern Ireland Executive ministers and their officials have over the past 72 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.
Socially distanced gatherings of up to six people will be permitted and places of worship can be reopened for acts of individual prayer under the latest round of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to be lifted by Ministers.
Under the terms of the Executive’s five step roadmap to recovery, First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill announced:
- Churches and other places of worship will be allowed to reopen their doors for individual prayer, provided they can adhere to all social distancing and public hygiene requirements.
- Drive-in religious services will also be permitted – provided people remain in their cars and the proper social distancing and hygiene advice is followed.
- Drive-in cinemas will also be allowed. Concerts and live theatre may also be facilitated but those attending must remain in their cars and adhere to the social distancing and hygiene guidelines.
- Outdoor activities that do not involve shared contact with hard surfaces will be permitted.
- Outdoor gatherings of up to six people not from the same household will be allowed but everyone must adhere to social distancing and public health guidelines.
- Councils will be authorised to act as enforcement bodies with regards the safe operation of not just their own household waste facilities but sites where certain types of exercise is permissible.
Please note Resumption of, for example, team sports training on a non-contact basis in small groups is not permitted until we enter Step 2. We advise that anyone seeking further clarification should speak to their National Governing Body.
First Minister Foster commented: “The relaxations that we have announced today have been made possible by the vast majority of you faithfully following the public health advice on self-isolation, on shielding, on social distancing and on limiting your activities in public and washing your hands thoroughly. They have been hard won freedoms and it is vital that when you exercise those freedoms you do it in a way that does not put anybody else’s safety at risk. As we move through the lifting of restrictions under Step 1 of our roadmap, we must proceed cautiously and adhere to public health advice. That is going to allow us to open up more freedoms in due course but you should remember if you are exhibiting the symptoms of Coronavirus, then you need to self-isolate.”
Deputy First Minister O’Neill added: “It is exactly two months today since we had our first Coronavirus related death here and while we are making good progress and we have come a long way, we certainly aren’t out of the woods yet. We have repeatedly cautioned the public not to become complacent because this virus is still among us and it is still a deadly virus and it is still taking the lives of individuals. We are working slowly and carefully to ease our way out of the lockdown, to restart community life and reboot the economy, to keep people in work and keep society functioning.”
The four Chief Medical Officers of the four nations of the UK today added the loss of a person’s sense of smell to the symptoms for Covid-19.
The change was announced in a joint statement issued by the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Gregor Smith and the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty.
The four Chief Medical Officer’ statement said: “From today, all individuals should self-isolate if they develop a new continuous cough or fever or anosmia. Anosmia is the loss or a change in your normal sense of smell. It can also affect your sense of taste as the two are closely linked. We have been closely monitoring the emerging data and evidence on Covid-19 and, after thorough consideration, we are now confident enough to recommend this new measure.”
Under the current guidelines, anyone exhibiting any of these symptoms should self-isolate for 14 days along with members of their household, unless the patient receives a negative test result.
- The Coronavirus: Executive Approach to Decision-Making document, which outlines how the Executive is approaching key decisions relating to Covid-19 restrictions on society, is available on The Executive Office website – www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/publications/coronavirus-executive-approach-decision-making
- 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(external link opens in a new window / tab).
- 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(external link opens in a new window / tab).
- 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(external link opens in a new window / tab) on google play.
- The online version of the app is hosted on a new website https://covid-19.hscni.net(external link opens in a new window / tab).
- A Covid-19 statistical dashboard can also be viewed on the Department of Health’s website at: https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiMWFhZDgzZDYtMTE4Yi00MTBjLWIzYmQtMTZhYzc1MGEyMTk1IiwidCI6IjljOWEzMGRlLWQ4ZDctNGFhNC05NjAwLTRiZTc2MjVmZjZjNSIsImMiOjh9(external link opens in a new window / tab).
- 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(external link opens in a new window / tab).
- Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/(external link opens in a new window / tab).
- 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.
- 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(external link opens in a new window / tab).
- 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(external link opens in a new window / tab).
- Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses
The Executive Office: Press.Office@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk;