The Health Minister has announced an £11.7m funding package for care homes in what he said was the first step in reshaping how Northern Ireland looks after its elderly.
Speaking at the Executive’s daily conference on the Covid-19 crisis, Robin Swann said the package was additional to the £6.5m already promised to the care home sector.
There were two further deaths announced from Covid-19, but the Minister said that only four new cases were confirmed - the lowest daily figure since March.
The Minister said the £11.7m financial package will enable care homes to pay staff 80% of their salary when on sick leave for Covid-19 related reasons.
The financial support also includes support for cleaning costs and the provision of specialist equipment.
Northern Ireland’s chief social worker Sean Holland said the new funding package must be the “beginning of a programme of investment” for the care sector.
Care homes “have always been a priority” in the battle against coronavirus,” he said.
“This pandemic has drawn wider attention quite rightly to care homes, and the experience of staff working, the residents who live in them and their families.
“When we come out on the other side of this we cannot as a society afford to lose that focus.
The Health Minister had words of warning following the continued gatherings of young people around the country. He said that while everyone would understand the sense of frustration over lockdown regulations, the gatherings were a cause for real concern.
“It does appear that for some people the compliance with restrictions is starting to fray.
“Our battle against Covid-19 is finely balanced. We have started the progress of easing restrictions cautiously and gradually. But I remind people that this is not an extended public holiday. Don’t think this is all over.
“My message is simple. Don’t put yourselves and others at risk. That kind of complacency will undo all the progress we have all achieved so far.”
With the Executive doe to consider a further easing of restrictions on Thursday he added: “That would ruin any hopes of further relaxations of restrictions. With more freedom comes more responsibility.”
He called the attack on a police office last weekend at Ballyhome beach “despicable” and said that young people gathering needed to “catch themselves on and wise up.”
But he added that he saw no reason yet to give police more powers to enforce restrictions.”
There was also a call for people who need medical attention for complaints other that coronavirus to seek that medical help.
”I remain very concerned that not all people who should be contacting their GP or attending hospitals are doing so. Coronavirus is not the only thing out there that’s killing people,” said Mr Swann.