BBC News

Coronavirus: £560m announced for NI health service

Published
Related Topics
  • Coronavirus pandemic
image copyrightPA Media

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced a package worth £560m to help NI's health service tackle Covid-19.

It is part of £687m of Covid-19 funding from the Treasury in London.

A further £100m has been redistributed by ministers between departments as part of the normal budgeting process.

Hospices will get £7m, as well as £15m for sport and £25m for the taxi and coach industry, while councils are to get an extra £15m and the Department for Infrastructure is getting £10m.

It was also confirmed by ministers that NI schools will reopen on Monday, with extra measures in place to allow pupils to return to classrooms safely.

That will include the mandatory wearing of face coverings for post-primary pupils on school transport.

Schools closed on 19 October as part of tighter Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the NI Executive.

Speaking at Stormont's press briefing on Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster said it is "the activity and mingling outside school gates that is of particular concern", not what occurs within classroom settings.

"Messaging will be rolled out in the coming days," she added.

On Thursday, ministers also discussed the effect of the latest restrictions on transmission rates in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland reported eight further Covid-19 related deaths on Thursday, bringing its total to 688.

There were 822 further positive cases, with the total number of cases now 37,216.

The Republic of Ireland reported six further Covid-related deaths and 866 new cases on Thursday.

There are 43 people in ICU, an increase of two from Wednesday.

There are now 330 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospitals in the country.

The first minister said NI's R-rate - or reproduction rate - for case numbers had dropped below one for the first time since the early summer.

"There are green shoots of hope", she added.

Mrs Foster also said about 4,500 staff in the health service are off work on sick leave.

She said 1,100 of those absences were Covid-related.

The rest were "standard sickness for this time of year," she added.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said everyone in Northern Ireland "needs to keep at this and do our part to stop this virus spreading".

She said the recent decrease in transmission of the virus in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area, which previously had the highest rate across the UK, was down to efforts of the public.

image copyrightPacemaker

Mr Murphy said some of the extra health money will be spent on enhancing the test, trace and isolate systems.

He said there was also an extra £61m to meet increased education pressures.

"This covers costs with restarting schools including; funding to provide a safe learning environment for children and young people, staff costs, free school meals and uniform grants.

"This also includes, nearly £12 million for Education Authority pressures including special educational needs."

Mr Murphy said the £15m for sport was to help organisations which have lost income as a result of reduced spectators at their events, club membership and running competitions.

Ministers have also approved extra financial support for taxi drivers and coach operators affected during the pandemic.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said a £14m package would go directly to taxi drivers.

Some drivers have criticised reports they will each be offered a one-off payment of £1,500.

Coach and bus operators will receive a package worth £5m.

Meanwhile Health Minister Robin Swann has instructed Trusts to provide free car parking to HSC staff until 31 March 2021.

Mr Swann said: "As our valued staff enter into a most challenging and pressurised time, I hope that this provides some welcome news."

The move follows Thursday's budgetary announcement of additional funding allocated to the Department of Health for free staff car parking.

Related Topics

More on this story

  • Coronavirus: Executive 'intends' to reopen NI schools next week