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Message from Northern Ireland Branch easing lockdown Restrictions

The Northern Ireland Executive has published its approach to decision making for easing lockdown restrictions, this was prepared by Stratagem on our behalf

The published plan can be viewed here follow link:

https://www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/execoffice/execuitveour-approach-to-decision-making.pdf

Current positions

Progression of the pandemic - at present, best estimates suggest that less than 5% of our population are likely to have had the infection and recovered, which is not a sufficiently high level of population immunity to confer protection from further spread of the virus.
The R-0 value (rate of transmission) is estimated to stand at around 0.8. It is important to maintain R at or below 1.
The single greatest concentration of the virus is within care homes. An urgent expansion of a testing programme will commence immediately.

There is a wider health impact, with health services pressures now exacerbated by the pandemic. As of 22 April 2020, more than 2,000 red flag referral elective care and inpatient admissions were cancelled.
The pandemic will cause severe social and economic damage. Initial assessments put the overall output within the NI economy at 25-30% below normal. The Ulster University Economic Policy Centre (UUEPC) have estimated that the unemployment rate could reach 6%. This equates to an increase of around 30,000 unemployed people.

Basis for decision making

Controlling transmission – keeping the R number below 1.
Protecting healthcare capacity – not allowing healthcare services to become overwhelmed as normal services resume.
Necessity – specific restrictions and regulations will only remain in place as long as necessary.
Proportionality – restrictions should only be tolerated as long as they outweigh the health, social or economic risks of lifting them.
Reliance on evidence – proposals for change should be based on the best available evidence.

These align closely with WHO guidance.

North/South and East/West collaboration

The Executive is committed to good co-operation on both an East/West and North/South basis, as well as learning from other jurisdictions elsewhere too. The decisions on the future approach to the restrictions are for the Executive to take based on the best analysis of the situation here and internationally.

Steps to lifting lockdown

Steps are outlined in a 5 stage approach and are broken down into sectors, which are as follows:

Work
Retail
Education
Travel
Family and Community
Sport, Cultural and Leisure activities

A breakdown of the steps can be viewed on pages 10 and 11 of the document.

It is important to note that steps do not necessarily apply at the same time in different sectors. For example, step one in the ‘retail’ sector may occur weeks before step one in the ‘travel’ sector.

Why does the plan not include dates, as the ROI plan does?

First Minister Arlene Foster MLA has said that: “We will not be driven by a timetable” and instead, the steps will be progressed “when the time is right” and may even include some steps back as well as forward, if necessary.

Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill MLA has said that we could be on “step one in the very immediate future.”

The Executive will “look continuously” at moving through the stages, but the current position currently stands i.e. we have not yet moved to step one in any sector.

The Regulations will continue to be reviewed within every three week period. There may be reviews where no change is warranted and others when more change is possible. Each process of review should not be read as being linked to the next step of the relaxations.

The Plan for Economic Recovery will be published in the coming days.

Regards

Dr Tony Damoglou
Northern Ireland Branch Secretary