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Chief Minister's statement on COVID-19 - 08 March 2021

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Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today.

Here with me at the podium is the Minister for Health & Social Care, and on Zoom we have the Minister for Education, Sport and Culture 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.

I know many people will see these numbers and be alarmed. Yes, they are higher than we have seen at any moment of this pandemic.

But it is important that we keep this in some context. We are testing large numbers of people at the moment – around 800 this weekend.

We are seeing about 14% of people tested returning a positive result. And this number has been stubbornly steady over recent days.

As our Director of Public Health has said, the fact that we entered lockdown almost a week or so ago, gives us some hope that the numbers we are seeing might soon hit a peak. But let me ask her to come in at this point to tell you herself what she believes the numbers are telling us.

As Dr Ewart has said on a number of occasions now, the key to us turning the corner in this latest outbreak will be breaking the chains of onward transmission.

And as I have said, the most important contribution that the Great Manx Public can make to achieve this is to stay at home.

I really cannot overstate the importance of this. The basic facts are simple. This is a virus that moves fast from person to person. Any mixing between people increases the risk of transmission.

If you do not mix with others, this will help break the chains and isolate the virus for our community.

Every single one of us needs to do what we can to protect our most vulnerable, our vaccination programme and our critical services.

And the 111 and Contact Tracing Team are working under massive pressure. I do need to ask people to be patient and considerate to the team.

When it comes to our health service, the case numbers we are seeing are of course a cause of real concern. Concern because of the pressure that we are facing in our hospital. We are already seeing a number of people affected by the virus requiring hospital attention.

I will ask the Minister to take us through some of the actions that the Department has had to take to ensure that we are ready for what might come next. As things stand, the hospital is coping. Services have had to be adapted and some stopped.

But if the pressure increases too much, there is a real risk that the hospital will not be able to cope.

And right now, given that we are entering a phase of real increase in vaccination supply, we cannot allow anything to destabilise that.

David, would you like to pick up on this?

You will have seen that last week we had to suspend all provision in our schools, even for key workers. This was not an easy decision but it was based on the data we were seeing about infections of our young people. Unfortunately - with the strain of the virus that we are currently dealing with - our younger population can act as a bridge for the transmission of COVID from one household to another.

We do however know that we need to ensure that those who are critical to keeping our Island safe and moving are able to have their children looked after safely.

We are working to develop a plan for this and I would like to invite the Minister of Education, Sport & Culture to update us.

Thank you, Alex. And as you say, the Council of Ministers will keep a careful eye on this and review this regularly.

Just before we go to questions, I would like to update you on our longer term approach to exiting the wider situation. When will we be ready to pivot from an approach of local elimination to one of living with the virus? I will be briefing Tynwald on this tomorrow and we will be publishing it on our website once I have done this.

I hope people will read the document with interest. It may not have everything that everyone needs. And of course it could be subject to change. But it will show you our direction of travel.

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 you possibly can.

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.