Other News In Brief

Connectivity Review Calls For Greater Investment In Infrastructure Transformation

The Sir Peter Hendy's Connectivity Review has called for greater investment for the NI Executive for infrastructure transformation.

Welcoming the findings of the review, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: "It is no surprise that Sir Peter Hendy has confirmed that the costs of a tunnel or a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland would be impossible to justify. It is completely sensible that no further work will be taken forward on that proposal and that the Review has rightly turned to the many more pressing infrastructure needs for our people, as I had asked Sir Peter Hendy to do.

"The report recognises that we have suffered decades of underinvestment in our public transport, that we have much less rail than elsewhere across these islands and that in turn we have an over reliance on the private car. This is something that we all can see first-hand and it needs to be addressed so that we can provide sustainable transport options, help to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. I therefore welcome many of the recommendations that the Review report has made. I look forward to the focus of the British Government now being on providing the funding, as recommended in the report, to deliver the projects needed to address this legacy. Funding for improved transport infrastructure; funding for enhanced connections to our regional gateways; and funding to support the findings from the All Island Strategic Rail Review that I am undertaking with Minster Eamon Ryan.

"My officials and I will study the Review report further and I hope to meet with the British Government soon to understand how and when this vital funding will be provided to enable the transformation our infrastructure crucially requires."

Four More African Countries Added To NI Red List

Malawi, Mozambique, Angola and Zambia have been added to the NI red list.
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They join the following countries already placed on the red list: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini.

These actions have been taken in response to the emerging threat from the new omicron variant (B.1.1.529).

The Department of Health is liaising closely with colleagues across the UK and RoI.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride said: "The emergence of the omicron variant is a serious and concerning development following the extreme pressures that we have already faced during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic to date. Whilst it is highly likely that there will be cases of the variant in NI at some point it is essential that preventative measures are taken to delay and/or reduce its incursion. This is a rapidly developing situation with the potential need for the addition of more countries to the Red List in the coming days."

DUP 'Appalled' At Number Of People Waiting ON PIP Appeal

The DUP has said that it is "appalling" that 1252 Personal Independent Payment (PIP) benefit applicants have been waiting between six months and over two years for a benefit appeal hearing.

This information was received by a Written Assembly Question to the Communities Minister.

DUP East Belfast MLA Robin Newton said: "This is appalling. Of the 1252 people waiting more than six months for an appeal, 251 of those people have been waiting for more than two years. The system is evidently broken.

"This information demands answers from the Communities Minister. What action has she taken to resolve the matter? Where is her plan to fix the problem? We don’t need to hear blame, we need to hear about viable solutions.

"PIP applicants shouldn’t be treated as statistics. They are people with mental health, mobility and care needs. No one should be waiting this length of time for a decision. That 251 people are waiting longer than two years is scandalous.

"The Minister needs to address this issue. As the Minister dithers, it is probable that some of these people will find themselves in serious debt as they wait for their hearings date."

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