DUBLIN/BELFAST, Ireland/Northern Ireland - The departments of health in Ireland and Northern Ireland have formally agreed on a raft of measures to jointly combat the coronavirus.
The object of the exercise is to underpin and strengthen North-South co-operation on the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A memoradum of understanding has been entered into between the respective health ministers and chief medical officers to ensure greater co-operation in areas such as: public health messaging, research, programmes of behavioural change, ethics, evidence base modelling, and public health and non-pharmaceutical initiatives. Procurement is another measure under consideration.
The document, endorsed by the Northern Ireland Exceutive and the Irish government has been signed off by Ireland's Minister for Health Simon Harris and Northern Ireland's Minister for Health Robin Swann (pictured), and the two Chief Medical Officers Dr Tony Holohan and Dr Michael McBride.
"There has been significant engagement between the Ministers, the Chief Medical Officers, and the Departments throughout this pandemic. This MOU will ensure timely and responsive communications and decisions in a fast-moving environment; that both Administrations will seek to adopt similar approaches, where it is appropriate to do so on the advice of respective Chief Medical Officers," Harris said Tuesday.
"This is a global pandemic. It knows no borders and we are all in this together. It is essential we continue to do everything we can across the island to fight this pandemic."
Minister Swann added: "I want to acknowledge the ongoing collaborative work between my Department, the Public Health Agency and Health and Social Care Board and their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland. This has been the case from day one and is a reflection of the long standing cooperation and relationships built up over many years. We face a common challenge, facing that challenge will test us as never before. We will continue to do everything possible to work together for the best possible outcome."
Dr Michael McBride said: "I welcome the MOU which reaffirms our commitment to work together for the benefit of the people we all serve. North-south co-operation on protecting the health and well-being of our citizens has been well established for many years. It is essential that we continue to work together as closely as possible at this time."
Dr Tony Holohan added: "I am delighted that Dr Michael McBride and I have now finalised the MOU with the full engagement and assistance of respective Departments and Ministers. We have been working closely with our Northern Irish colleagues since the start of the COVID 19 crisis. Today's MOU will formalise the close ongoing co-operation that has been taking place."
(File photo. Credit: BBC screenshot).