Firstly, today I want to send my best wishes to the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary as they have been diagnosed with Covid 19. As with so many others they appear to have mild symptoms and hopefully will make a speedy recovery. It shows that no one is immune to this virus and again underlines the fact that we must all heed the advice and try to avoid spreading the disease.
Early today Michelle and I spoke with the Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch to listen to his concerns on behalf of those he advocates for. He underlined to us the need to reach out to our older friends, neighbours and families so they did not feel lonely as they self isolate.
I have asked you all to take steps to protect the elderly and vulnerable throughout this week and I am now asking you to make contact with them by phone, by FaceTime, even write them a letter or a postcard. In fact today I am asking if you have a young person in your home who is finding it difficult to pass the day, why not get them to write to an elderly relative or neighbour. In fact you don’t even have to be young - I’m going to write to some elderly friends this weekend, walk to the postbox, (as my daily exercise) and post those letters.
Our postal service provide a critical service for us all and I want to thank them for keeping us connected. I also want to thank those engineers and technicians in BT and all the other technology firms who are allowing us to keep in touch.
We recognise that there has been confusion over who should be at work. We want to bring clarity.
Those who can, should work from home.
Many are doing so.
I am now working from home when I can and holding meetings with Executive colleagues remotely using technology.
The current public health advice we receive is clear that those, for whom working from home is not possible, should continue go to work.
I reinforce that our key focus is on the safety of all our community, and there is a heavy onus of responsibility on our employers.
Covid-19 guidance for employers developed by the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health Agency is being issued today.
And after the passage of emergency Coronavirus legislation earlier this week we also aim to publish the NI regulations as quickly as possible, later today or over the weekend if necessary, which will incorporate the retail and businesses subject to restrictions or closure.
The Economy Minister will establish a new forum involving business, the Public Health Agency, Health and Safety Executive, police, trade unions and local government. The forum will advise the Executive on management of our Covid response, and our two Junior Ministers in the Executive Office will also be active members on the forum.
Work will continue over the weekend and we anticipate the forum having a comprehensive first formal engagement on Monday.