Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today.
Here with me at the podium is the Minister for Education, Sport & Culture, and on Zoom we have the Minister for Health & Social Care and our Director of Public Health.
Let me start by handing over to Minister Ashford for an update on testing numbers from the last twenty four hours. And I know David has an update on vaccinations and other matters a bit later.
As you can see, we have had a significant increase in positive tests. As I said yesterday, this is what we would have expected to happen. Now that we have our circuit break in place, risk of house to house transmission should be significantly reduced. But we will continue to see cases develop as the virus incubates and shows itself.
This is why avoiding house to house transmission is so incredibly important and why we need you to stay at home as much as possible. I really cannot emphasise this enough.
I will hand over to our Director of Public Health for her update in a moment. I did just want to mention a change that I know some of you have noticed relating to publication of low risk venues.
With the number of cases we now have, and given that we are now staying at home, the need to publish low risk venues has gone for the moment. With low risk venues, we were previously asking people to be vigilant and call 111 if they developed symptoms. With an outbreak, we of course need everyone to do this - regardless of where you have been. If there are venues that do pose a high risk, then of course we will let you know as soon as we can.
I have spoken before about the need to protect our most vulnerable, our health & social care sector, and our vaccination programme. This remains front and centre in our thinking and our planning.
Another pressure that we are mindful of is the need to protect our other key services. As of this morning, we had about 500 people identified as close contacts – over 200 in just the last 24 hours. We know that if these numbers rise, this could impact on essential services across the Island – whether this is our emergency services, essential retail or the other things that keep our Island safe and keep us going.
This is why it is critically important to stay at home whenever you can.
And as the Minister of Education, Sport & Culture said yesterday, this includes our schools. We do need to keep school places for those who really need them. If we cannot sustain the schools because cases creep into them, then the impact on our critical workers and our most vulnerable children would be considerable.
Because of this, the Council of Ministers this morning decided to make some changes to the criteria of people who can access our schools during this circuit break lockdown. I will invite the Minister of Education, Sport & Culture to update us on this.
We all need to do everything we can to protect all of our critical services. By staying at home.
The other thing that is absolutely crucial over the next couple weeks – and beyond – is that if you have any symptoms at all that may be COVID then please do not ignore them. Call 111 and get tested. You have heard from the Director of Public Health how easily this virus spreads. Every day that someone is positive and isn’t aware of the fact means risk to our community.
Another of our key services is our 111 and contact tracing teams. The volume of work at the moment is enormous.
Please only call them if you really need to. If we have said we will contact you, we will. The team has now called and booked tests for those related to the St Ninian’s Year 8 group and Ballasalla. Today they should have done so with the St Ninian’s Year 7 groups – and may have already done so.
Please only call 111 if you need to report symptoms. For the rest of today and tomorrow, we are pausing bookings for vaccinations so the 111 team can focus on testing and contact tracing. Minister Ashford will go into a little more detail on this in a moment.
Also, please don’t forget that the community support line – on 686262 - is up and running. It is there for any questions related to the circuit break, and if you need support or advice. But they too are experiencing a significant volume of calls. Full details of the circuit break lock down and the rules that all of us need to follow are available at gov.im/covid19. There are other numbers on our website for questions relating to financial support and business support.
Let me pause and hand over to the Minister for Health & Social Care for his updates.
It is time to go to questions from the media. Just before I do, I want to go back to the question of our exit strategy. We have not forgotten it. We hope to publish it early next week and take you through the detail. I am sorry it is taking longer than hoped but one of the reasons for delay is a positive one relating to confirmation of the significant increase in vaccination deliveries this month. This of course has an impact on key moments of our exit.
Thank you for everything you are doing. Right now, the message is simple.
Stay at home. This is the best thing you can do for your Island and the essential services that keep us safe. The more people stay at home, the quicker we can bring this outbreak under control. It is in all of our hands.
If you do have to go out, please wear a face covering as much as possible.
If you feel any symptoms, please self-isolate and call 111 as soon as possible.
Respect the rules and we will get through this. Please make the right decisions for you, your family and your Island.