I’m very pleased that the Chief Constable will be joining us for this press conference.
Our police service has an important role in keeping law and order during this crisis.
We want to work alongside him and his colleagues and to give him all the support he needs to keep us safe.
We also send our sincere thanks to the officers who are continuing patrols and investigating crimes. Social distancing is difficult in a two person vehicle patrol. I appreciate the sacrifice by families of officers, who instead of stepping back, are stepping forward to be in the frontline in this crisis.
Yesterday we sent a simple but stern message to employers. I am not going to repeat that message today. I know management heard it and are acting upon it.
We will monitor this because we want to protect the health of our employees and your workforce.
I understand the difficulties all of these arrangements are causing but I also want all employees to feel valued - and I do value them.
All of us are doing things differently because these are not normal times.
The Health and Safety Executive NI has drawn up additional advice, building on the advice issued by the UK Government, to guide businesses engaged in essential work on the measures they must implement to minimise the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace.
That advice stresses the importance of employers ensuring they can implement the two metre social distancing rule between workers on the factory floor, in the office, in canteens, kitchens and vehicles.
I’m particularly conscious that food production is an essential services for everyone. We need to protect the workers as well as supporting the industry.
Systems must also be in place if someone becomes unwell with Covid symptoms in the workplace, strong guidance should be given to all employees on hygiene and preventative measures, and cleaning of surfaces and work places should be increased.
The UK wide advice is available online at www.gov.uk under “Guidance to Employers and Business About Covid 19”. The additional NI material is also available online.
If that advice cannot be adhered to, then companies should consider a number of suggested actions which include reduction of workers on site at any one time, relocating workers to other tasks, redesigning processes to allow social distancing, putting in place temporary barriers and better use of technology such as teleconferencing and adjustment of workflow or production line speeds.
In education, this week, we had hundreds of schools open their doors and support the children of key workers. We should remember that while many families are staying home and staying together, these children know that Mummy and Daddy are going out each day because they are in critical roles and are putting themselves at risk to support all of us. These young people should be given all support possible.
We are aware that over three hundred children were not able to be accommodated at their local school. This is something the Education Minister is working to address for these key workers.
For business. The Economy Minister has launched the online portal at nibusinessinfo.co.uk relating to the £10,000 support for all small businesses with a rateable value up to fifteen thousand pounds.
The payment is based on your last rates bill. It will be made to your bank account and efforts will be made to process it as fast as possible.
On Personal Protective Equipment. I hear the concerns being expressed. We have drawn this to the attention of the Chief Nursing Officer and the Chief Medical Officer. The Chief Nursing Officer has put out a video on the appropriate use of Personal Protection Equipment.
Please follow their advice and just to reassure you we are following the expert guidance.
Finally, I know the Chief Constable will touch on this. There are a number of scammers who are trying to exploit this situation on the back of this crisis. This is awful but sadly we have people like this in our society.
Be vigilant and report any suspected scams to action fraud at actionfraud.police.uk