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Chief Minister's statement on COVID-19 - 11 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.

I hope you have had the opportunity to take a look at the exit framework that we published this week. I know it has been well received. Even though it will almost certainly be subject to change over the coming weeks and months, I hope it has given you a clearer understanding of the road ahead.

I need to once again thank James Davis for leading a discussion with Mark Lewin from our Department of Enterprise on this that you can view online.

In a second, I will hand over to Minister Ashford for an update on testing numbers from the last twenty-four hours.

Just before I do, I would like to make a point of my own on data. I know that people are carefully following the numbers that we release on social media, and to the media, each day. I know that there has been a lot of debate about what the figures mean. I know that there is a wish to see more.

The team has been working on a dashboard that I hope will allow everyone to see for themselves the story as it unfolds. I know that lots of people have found the vaccination dashboard useful.

This new dashboard will, for example, break daily cases down into those that link to known existing positives and those that might be so far unexplained.

The team have been doing final revisions today. I will share it with Tynwald members tomorrow morning and we are aiming for it to be fully live after that.

This will be a version one. If people have thoughts on what else might be included then we are open to ideas. There are some things that it is not possible for us to publish for patient confidentiality reasons. But where we can share, we will.

A good moment to hand over to Minister Ashford for today’s numbers.

The Council of Ministers heard this morning that the figures may indicate that the lockdown measures and your actions may be having some impact. There is a long way to go yet. But it does feel that we are heading in the right direction.

Although active cases have continued to rise, the daily increase has started to reduce. We do know that subject to negative Day 13 tests over the next few days, we are about to see a lot of active cases leave self-isolation. This will mean the number of active cases should reduce.

I should add my thanks to the swabbing teams and those in the lab who have been working really long hours at pace. Over the last week, they have done and tested over four thousand swabs.

I know people will want to know if we have now hit a peak. I will ask our Director of Public Health to give us a far more expert view than I can, along with any other updates on what we are seeing through our testing and tracing.

I have said it before. But I need to say it again. We are dealing with a virus that, if left unchecked, can move through our community at an eye-watering pace. The best way to stop it is to stay at home.

Please do everything you can to prevent household mixing. This is what is going to allow us to come out of this as early as possible and protect our vaccination programme.

On our vaccination programme, it has been great to see the increase in numbers now coming through. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the team delivered more than one thousand jabs each day. Yesterday was in fact over eleven hundred. I understand that they are on course to break that one thousand mark again today. This really is excellent.

I am particularly pleased to see that 84% of our first four priority groups – so residents in care homes, those aged 70 and above, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and front line health & social care workers – have now had at least one dose.

David, would you like to add anything further on the vaccination programme?

I know that a number of you will be keen to hear about what is happening with our schools. Let me hand over to the Minister of Education, Sport & Culture for his update.

Before I go to questions from the media, I would like to pass on a few important messages.

First of all, I know that the pandemic has caused financial challenges and uncertainty. If you find yourself in difficulty or need some advice, please remember that the Office of Fair Trading provides a confidential Debt Counselling Service. This gives people the opportunity to talk to a specialist debt counsellor about their financial concerns. You can contact the service on 686510.

The Office of Fair Trading can also provide advice for tenants who may be concerned about their rights during and beyond the current lockdown. The number for them to call is 686500.

If you are facing difficulties, please call. There is help out there for you.

A second message I have been asked to mention here is the strain on our emergency services. They are working under real pressure at the moment, not least because a number of them have been required to self-isolate. And they are doing everything they can to maintain responsible social distance. We have spoken here before about the importance of us all playing our part. Please think about what you can do to minimise the risk of the emergency services being required. Whether this is your driving, a sporting activity or anything else. Let’s all do our bit so that they are there to respond when we need them most.

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.