COVID-19 (coronavirus) update from David Sterling

Many of you will have seen the latest advice from the UK Government on COVID-19 (coronavirus). This advice relates to social distancing measures to help to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Please be aware that as the situation develops, this advice may change.


In addition to asking individuals displaying symptoms to stay at home, the advice is now that households in which one person is displaying symptoms should all stay at home. 

We also need to reduce non-essential social contact particularly for those in vulnerable groups. People have been asked to work from home where possible, limit use of public transport and avoid unnecessary social gatherings.

As we enter this critical new phase in our response to COVID-19 I understand many of you will be concerned about the steps you should take to protect yourself, family and friends. 

As an NICS we must continue to deliver our essential work and services to the public. 

This remains a developing situation, and it will be necessary to update and amend the guidance as and when the circumstances change.  We will make sure the latest and best guidance we can provide is available through NI Direct and the NICS Intranet sites.

So from Wednesday 18 March the following measures will be taken within the NICS applying to all staff and all workplaces:

  • If you live alone and have a new, continuous, cough or a high temperature (37.8 degrees and above), then you should isolate and stay at home for 7 days. You should advise your line manager if this is the case.
  • If you live with other people and one of you displays symptoms, everyone in your household should isolate and stay at home for 14 days. You should advise your line manager if this is the case.
  • Anyone who is over 70, has an underlying health condition (as advised in the guidance attached), or is pregnant should not attend the workplace. You should advise your line manager if this is the case.
  • If your work allows, you should work from home – you should discuss arrangements with your line manager.
  • If your job role does not permit this, for example, if you have duties that can only be carried out at the workplace, but there is a compelling reason for you not to attend the office, you may be granted special leave subject to discussion with your line manager.
  • Anyone not in the ill, self-isolating or at risk categories stated above and whose work cannot be carried out at home should attend the workplace.
  • If you feel this puts you or someone else at risk then please contact your line manager to discuss arrangements.
  • Managers will assess which roles can and cannot be carried out from home and will be talking to individuals and teams as soon as possible. We are working closely with IT Assist to prioritise allocation of IT equipment. 
  • Offices will remain open for teams with a need to work in the office or to collect IT or other materials required for home working.
  • For those working in the office every action should be taken to enable physical distancing within the office, including trying to reconfigure seating arrangements to allow for 2 metres distance apart. Meetings should not take place unless absolutely essential. Use telephones and ICT to avoid face to face meetings. If these must be held you should try to ensure attendees are 2 metres apart.
  • You should avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times on public transport to avoid rush hour and where it is practical/possible please consider walking or cycling to work. 
  • You should continue to maintain the highest possible personal hygiene, including washing your hands thoroughly and frequently.
  • Business areas are looking at scaling back activities, determining minimal/reduced staffing levels that enable key services to continue and developing rotas based on staff working a reduced number of hours per day/days per week or alternate weeks without any financial detriment.
  • We are reviewing other measures like suspending/changing methods for recruitment competitions, training courses and OHS visits.

Frequently asked questions and advice for NICS colleagues and managers are attached and are also available on the intranet. Line managers should bring these to the attention of colleagues who do not have access to the intranet. Please make sure you also look at the latest PHA advice:

In all cases, you should take sensible measures and discuss working arrangements within your business area.

We will need to divert resources to COVID-19 and every department has extensive plans in place, including the working patterns of staff in frontline roles, to ensure we can continue to deliver public services.  

Teams across the NICS are already working incredibly hard, pulling together to manage the challenges we face. Over the coming months the NICS, like every organisation, will have to adapt the way we work and this may involve changing colleagues’ roles and at a later stage calling some people back into work. This means following the official advice while managing higher than average levels of absence.

Please speak to your line manager if you have any concerns. 

We have an extremely important role in not only helping to delay this virus and supporting those affected, but also continuing to provide the services that our citizens rely on every day.

I am confident the NICS will rise to the challenge.

Look after yourselves and each other.

Thank you in advance