THE public was today urged by the Health Minister Robin Swann to be ready to play their part in helping the Test, Trace and Protect strategy minimise the spread of Covid-19.
During Oral Questions in the Assembly, the Minister said the Public Health Agency-led strategy adopted a robust approach to containing the Coronavirus, based around four key elements:
The early identification and isolation of possible cases, clusters and outbreaks;
Rapid testing of possible cases;
The Tracing of close contacts of cases; and
Early, effective and supported isolation of close contacts to prevent onward transmission of infection.
However Minister Swann warned everyone must be prepared for the possibility that they, along with members of their household, might have to self-isolate and be tested for Covid-19.
He added: “For Test, Trace and Protect to work, each citizen in Northern Ireland has a very important role to play. We must all prepare for the possibility of having to self-isolate and prepare to be tested in order to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.
“I recognise that in some cases there may be some financial disincentives to self-isolation and further work is required to address those barriers. The approach I have outlined is likely to become part of everyday life for the foreseeable future for the people of Northern Ireland until an effective vaccine is developed and a vaccination programme for Covid-19 has been delivered.”
The Minister told MLAs that along with physical distancing and good hand and respiratory hygiene, Test, Trace and Protect would help minimise community transmission.
Meanwhile, Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín today announced the extension of safeguard measures during the Covid-19 emergency for those claiming disability benefits.
The Minister’s predecessor, Deirdre Hargey, announced in March that the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) would be suspended up to the end of June 2020.
These will now be extended, with telephony assessments carried out where appropriate.
Minister Ní Chuilín explained: “Review activity will gradually resume from 21 July for PIP and Disability Living Allowance and measures have been put in place to ensure the payment of benefit continues until the review has concluded.
“If people experience a change in their needs, they are still encouraged to contact the Department to ensure they are receiving the correct level of support.
“These measures are to reassure vulnerable people about the continuity of their benefits during the Coronavirus outbreak and to ensure the Department’s resources are focused on enabling access to financial support for people who need it.
“During these very challenging times my priority continues to be protecting the health and well-being of those using and delivering these vital services across our communities.”