Busy day at Stormont as fight against Coronavirus gathers pace

Busy day at Stormont as fight against Coronavirus gathers pace
By Damian Mullan


By Damian Mullan



IT'S fair to say it's been a busy day.

And, as the fight against Coronavirus continues, that trend looks set to continue.

From morning to night, the news agenda has shifted continuously as we all react to an ever changing landscape.

E-mail after e-mail has landed in my in box, reflecting the fast-moving nature of the story.

So here's a quick recap.

First up, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced new measures to help people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emergency measures to be introduced on Thursday will include the introduction of a grant payment to assist with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of the immediate family, has been infected by the virus or told to self-isolate.

Interestingly, there is no limit on the amount of an individual award which will be calculated on individual circumstances.

Soon after, Finance Minister Conor Murphy outlined steps to ensure government departments paid their suppliers as quickly as possible 'to maintain cash flow and protect jobs.'

Later in the day, the Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, revealed that she has put further measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Community transport operators funded by the department have been asked to suspend all Disability Action Transport Services and to significantly restrict Dial-a-Lift services to essential journeys only.

"We are now in an extraordinary time and we must listen to the advice and guidance given on social distancing, helping shield those who may be most vulnerable to the virus. The advice is clear - stay at home to save lives.  I know this will be incredibly difficult, but we must each play our part in keeping ourselves and others safe, and slowing the transmission of COVID-19," said the minister.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister also encouraged members of the public to help fight Coronavirus from home.

"In order to support health workers and prevent our hospitals from being engulfed by a tsunami of cases, members of the public in non-essential services need to stay at home and avoid normal social interactions with family, friends, work colleagues and on the streets," said the First Minister.

"This really is a matter of life and death and there is no other option. As the campaign says: We all must do it to get through it."

As part of the fight against the virus, a network of new Primary Care Covid-19 centres are being established, with the first opened at Altnagelvin Hospital on Wednesday.

"Primary Care Covid-19 Centres are an essential part of the fight against this virus. To ensure vital GP services can be maintained throughout the coming weeks and months, it is absolutely critical that those who show symptoms are separated from the patients with non Covid-19 related conditions," explained Health Minister Robin Swann.

"Covid-19 centres are not testing facilities and are only for patients who are very unwell, are suspected of having Covid-19 and require medical attention. Patients will not be able to report directly to these centres without being referred by their GP or Out of Hours provider.

"Whilst the centres will help to free up GP services to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital we balance this with the need for primary care services to continue with the minimum of disruption," he added.

It is expected that additional centres will be set up across the province and we hopefully will bring you more details as we get them.

All this took place against other important developments, including a claim by Northern Ireland's chief medical officer that the spread of Coronavirus is a lot wider than statistics indicate.

Dr Michael McBride also admitted that the health service would have the capacity to carry out 1,000 tests a day from next week.

To date, the Coronavirus death toll here has reached seven.

There promises to be no let up in news as we all deal with an unprecedented situation and we will be back again tomorrow helping to keep you informed.

In the meantime, take heed of the following advice: stay at home, only leave home for essential shopping or medical needs and exercise once once a day and, if feeling unwell, isolate yourself and your family.

And, remember, police will be able to fine you if you don't follow the rules...

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