Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today.
I am here at the podium with the Minister for Health & Social Care. Our Minister for Education, Sport & Culture and our Director of Public Health are on Zoom.
Let’s start with the Health & Social Care Minister bringing us the latest key data.
It is great to see no one in our hospital with COVID.
It is also wonderful to see another day of no cases. And most importantly, today is the fourteenth day without cases that we could not explain.
As I am sure our Director of Public Health will remind us, this is not the end of the story. But it is an important milestone nevertheless.
A good moment for me to hand over to Dr Ewart for her regular update.
Thank you as always, Dr Ewart.
So this does mean we are able to start to look more optimistically at the future. And that is what the Council of Ministers has been doing and will be doing this week.
You will be accustomed by now to hearing major announcements on Thursdays. This is what we plan to do this week. One important aspect of our Island life that has taken an important step back to normality today is our schools, pre-schools and childcare.
Let me invite the Minister for Education, Sport & Culture to bring us his update.
Thank you, Alex.
I would like to add my personal thanks to our teachers, school staff and all those working in pre-school settings for everything they are doing. A safe return to school for our young people is so important. Not just for their education, their social development and their mental health. But also for our economy. Education and childcare has such an important role to play to support parents returning to work.
I told you last week that we would be looking at decisions relating to a number of our current measures. And that is what we plan to do.
If the data remains as strong as it appears today, I am hopeful that from 19 April we will be able to lift a significant amount of the restrictions that are in place.
It may not be everything in one go. It may be that we will need to keep some measures in place for just a little longer. But as far as possible we do want to step out of your lives. As soon as possible we want to get to a place where it is for us to tell you about the risks and how best to minimise them. And then for you to make the right decisions for you and those around you.
There are some final details that we need to work through over the next couple of days. We will let you know exactly what Monday will look like after the Council of Ministers’ meeting on Thursday.
This week, we will also be continuing our work on our longer-term approach.
Tomorrow, the Council of Ministers will be coming together with the rest of Tynwald to discuss what the Island might look like in the months ahead, including relating to the really tricky question of our borders.
I have said before that Government doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas. Far from it. We will be listening to Members and using their input and their ideas to refresh our strategy. We will publish the outcome soon.
It does seem clear that in one way or another, we will have to deal with COVID for some time to come. The vaccination programme has already made and will continue to make a real difference. Our most vulnerable are being protected and the risk to our health service is being reduced.
But the basics that have got us to where we are today will remain important. We must not forget the skills that we have built up over this pandemic so far. We may well need them again.
Some form of social distancing might be needed in the future. As might face coverings in certain settings. Hand hygiene will continue to be important. The importance of well-ventilated spaces is another thing that we have learnt is important in minimising risk.
Another way that we will be trying to use as many different views as possible is the 'Emergency Advisory Group' that we are establishing.
The idea of the Group emerged after debates in Tynwald. The purpose is to provide impartial, informed and independent advice to the Council of Ministers as we head into the next phases of our dealings with COVID.
The Council of Ministers is now looking to appoint – on a voluntary basis - external professionals to the Group.
There are a wide range of areas in which we are seeking expertise. As well as those with a background in health & social care or science & technology, we are also looking for those who can bring expertise in other areas such as legal, business, logistics, emergency response and communications.
If you think that you have something to offer and would like to be involved, you can find full details on the Public Appointments page of the Government Website. Applications are open until Sunday.
Let’s go to questions.
Thank you for those questions.
Thank you for everything you have done to get us to where we are. I have always said that we will only keep measures in place for as long as they are necessary. And it does feel that the situation that you have created will allow us to be more confident in our decision making on Thursday.
Please continue to do the right thing. We do seem to be in the home straight now. But the last thing any of us want is to lose our footing with the end in sight.
Please do remain vigilant. If you have any COVID-like symptoms, please don’t ignore them. Self-isolate right away and contact 111 for advice and to arrange a test.
Please stay safe. And keep your family and other loved ones safe.