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Chief Minister's statement on COVID-19 - 11 May 2020

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Good afternoon

As well as the Health & Social Care Minister, today I am pleased to have with us:

  • THe Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Dr Alex Allinson
  • Dr Henrietta Ewart, our Director of Public Health who is becoming a regular – and popular – guest and
  • Linda Thompson, Clinical General Manager for Children, Women & Families at the Department of Health & Social Care

Today, I would like to cover two important and emotive issues – the return of our residents and schools.

Before we get into these areas, I would like to invite the Minister of Health & Social Care to cover today’s statistics. I know that the Minister also wants to address a couple of issues that came up over the weekend.

Thank you, David.

I will hand over to the Education Minister in a second. But before I do, I need to update you on the repatriation scheme for our residents.

This morning the Council of Ministers considered the final details of changes to this scheme. We have now agreed that for those returning residents who meet – and can prove they meet - certain criteria, can from Wednesday now go through a system of Home Quarantine rather than the quarantine at the Comis Hotel.

The full details of the new procedures will be published on our website shortly. We are currently contacting those booked to return on Wednesday and those currently in the Comis who will be affected.

The headlines of the new process are:

  • People should be able to quarantine in their own accommodation i.e. not shared with any other people unless it is people they are returning with
  • If they are not able to do this, they can quarantine somewhere else – for example a hotel or in self-catered accommodation. This will need to be approved by Government
  • People returning under this scheme will not be allowed to go outside at all for the full fourteen days. The only exception will going out into personal – not shared - garden spaces in the agreed quarantine accommodation
  • Those returning will need to evidence that they have a network available to provide support – the supply of food for example - while in quarantine
  • The Department of Health & Social Care will issue legal directions that detail the requirements around quarantine and the penalties in place. Those returning will have to confirm that they understand the obligations on them

The Council of Ministers this morning also agreed that the repatriation numbers of around thirty a week will – for the moment at least - be maintained to continue to mitigate the increased risk.

We also agreed that the numbers of sailings would continue to be weekly – and from Heysham only. We are not ready to approve any other routes at this stage. Those returning will continue to be given a health check in the UK prior to sailing.

From Wednesday, any residents who are part way through a fourteen day quarantine at the Comis will be able to leave and complete their quarantine at home provided they too meet the criteria. They will only pay for the actual period of their stay with the remainder being refunded.

As always – and I know you have heard this from me a hundred time - these arrangements will be subject to regular review. If evidence suggests that these amended measures are increasing risk to our community, we are ready to change them.

I need to make clear a few issues that I know have been on people’s minds about this move to Home Quarantine.

  • This is not the start of an erosion of our border measures. Our borders remain closed
  • Residents returning will be made 100% clear of their legal obligations. These, like other laws in place to protect people during this pandemic, will be enforced by the police

I would now like to move on to the question of schools. I know is an emotive issue. And we are trying to hit a difficult balance.

We want to ensure that any return to school is safe for our teachers and our children.

We also recognise the need to ensure that our children’s education does not suffer more than it needs to.

There is of course also the question of children returning to school being important for those people who may be able themselves to return to work.

The Council of Ministers has been clear that we want to get this right not rushed. I would therefore like to hand over to the Minister for an update and a look ahead.

Thank you. I hope you all found that useful. We will continue to keep you informed as the situation develops.

Before I move to questions, I would like to give some initial reactions to the United Kingdom Prime Minister’s statement last night.

Much of what the Prime Minister has announced will have been familiar to people here on the Isle of Man.

People in the United Kingdom will now be able to leave their homes without the need for activity to be “essential”. As for other changes to the United Kingdom measures, the speech was – as the Prime Minister described it himself – a “first sketch of a road map” of what the future may look like. He suggested that June might see a phased reopening to schools and shops. And that July may see some hospitality returning.

While of course of interest to us, the changes to UK measures does not change our own decision making. We will continue to make Manx decisions and find Manx solutions for our Manx situation.

One aspect of the announcement that I know caught the attention of people here was when the Prime Minister said he was “serving notice” that it would “soon be time” to impose a quarantine requirement on people arriving into the United Kingdom.

There are a number of details still being worked on at the UK end. And we are of course in touch with them on this. What is clear so far is that people arriving into the UK from other parts of the Common Travel Area – so the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man – will be exempt.

Just in case there is any confusion here, this is a UK decision about people arriving into the United Kingdom. This does not affect our own processes for people arriving into the Isle of Man. Those processes are ours.

As I said earlier in this press conference, we keep our measures under constant review. But for the moment at least, I cannot envisage a return to an unhindered flow of people between the UK and the Isle of Man happening any time soon.

I will now take questions.

Thank you. We won’t do Shout Outs today – it has been a long briefing today.

But before I go, a quick look to the week ahead. Things are of course subject to change but as things stand:

Tomorrow we will be marking International Nurses Day, which this year also marks the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

On Wednesday, we would like to focus on questions relating to health and safety at work.

Thursday I hope to take you through decisions taken at the Council of Ministers that morning. We will also update you on infrastructure matters.

And Friday we will focus on cyber security.

So please keep tuning in. Follow us on twitter or Facebook. Visit our website.

Remember the basics that have got us here. Stay in if you can. And if you do go out, please respect other people’s space. In the same way that you want them to respect yours.

Have a good week. Be proud of what you have achieved. We have a long way to go. But we have achieved a lot.

Stay safe.