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I want to begin today by paying tribute to all of those who are working around the clock to keep Northern Ireland functioning at this most testing of times.

I would like to express our deep gratitude to the doctors and nurses who have gone onto the frontline to treat victims of the Covid-19 Coronavirus.

This emergency is testing the NHS as never before but, along with ambulance workers, staff are doing their utmost to save lives in the most difficult of circumstances.

I want to thank former NHS staff who have stepped up to swell the ranks of the health service as they respond to cases of the disease

However, we need more.

If you are a former health service worker and you left the health service, whatever the reason, we need you back.

Your neighbour will need you back in the coming weeks.

I thank our media for carrying this appeal but today we urge more to come forward.

Contact [email protected] and join the team as we tool up our hospitals to tackle the surge.

We are grateful to those private firms who are supplying equipment, resources and additional staff to our health service, to those in distribution and essential retail who are keeping supply chains open in food production and other essential goods.

Others who want to offer general support to fight against COVID 19 can contact the NI HUB at [email protected]

The Executive is doing everything possible to ensure that health service staff are equipped to deal with this crisis and have the equipment they need. And our chief medical officer will speak to this issue in a few minutes.

Public servants are also working around the clock to ensure public services continue to operate and the public are being informed about an evolving situation.

We are commencing an Executive campaign urging citizens to fight the Coronavirus from their homes. The public are being enlisted in an extensive campaign to help fight Coronavirus.

Billboard, print, broadcasting and digital media channels are being deployed in a campaign that urges citizens to heed public health advice by remaining in their homes, following hand washing advice and helping slow the spread of COVID 19.

People should only leave their home when they absolutely have to, such as those delivering essential services or shopping for necessities.

The reality is that this health emergency is going to get worse. The demand on our hospitals is going to increase.

The Executive appreciates the support that schools are giving at this time for the children of key workers. Yesterday 1172 children were accommodated on the school estate.

Additionally, employers have a responsibility to their workers at this time.

Yesterday we published a list of essential RETAIL services that CAN continue to operate.

However, from the information available, it is clear that some businesses in other sectors are operating without necessary social distancing and good practice being adopted.

That is not acceptable.

So let me make it clear.

If you are still operating, if some of your employees must be in work as they cannot work from home, then you MUST facilitate social distancing in the workplace.

You MUST provide your staff with the appropriate PPE.

You CANNOT expect your staff to carry on as normal.

Employers in the private and public sector have a duty of care to their staff and the wider public.

They need to look at changing their working practices.

For our part we have instructed all civil service managers to enforce social distancing and adopt all preventative measures.

Where home working is possible, staff should be encouraged to work at home.

Every employer, public and private, needs to act responsibly.

The Minister for the Economy has asked the Health and Safety Executive to urgently ensure that employers are now following these health and safety practices.

But be under no illusions, under new emergency legislation if you do not get your act together on social distancing, the Executive will have no option but to take enforcement action against you.

Finally, if you are an employee I know the worry of the people who are left at home as you go to work.

Your husband, wife, son or daughter worries about what you will bring back into the home.

We understand that and that is why I am asking all employers to act responsibly.

Now is the time for employers, employees and all of us to work together.

Let’s be sensible.

Let’s work together.

Let’s work as team so that we can do everything possible to maintain life.