As well as the Health & Social Care Minister, today I am pleased to have with us Ian Mansell the Director of Regulation at the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture. Ian and his team have been performing a critical job relating to workplace safety during this pandemic. I look forward to his update.
Before we get into that, I would like to invite the Minister of Health & Social Care to cover today’s numbers.
Thank you, David. And thank you for taking the press conference yesterday evening. It was a wonderful tribute to our fabulous nurses, midwives and carers to whom we always owe so much. But immeasurably more so during this pandemic.
Last Thursday, after the Council of Ministers, I updated you on our thinking about returning to work. There are two parts of that I would like to come back to.
Firstly, retail. As I told you last week, on 7 May, the Council of Ministers agreed that we were close to being able to agree that shops and other retail businesses would open from Monday 18 May. We will be considering this again tomorrow at our meeting.
As you have seen, the data relating to our key indicators – including active cases and the readiness of our health service – remain strong. But we still need to consider some of the practical implications. I will update you tomorrow evening on our discussion.
Secondly, offices. Last week, the Council of Ministers agreed that we should encourage employers in our financial, professional and digital services to consider what they would need to do in the event we were able to approve a phased return soon. We want those companies to think about how they would do that safely. About what might need to change in relation to their premises or practices.
I have said on a number of occasions that protection of the lives of our people is the Council of Ministers’ number one priority.
We hope to be able to make changes to our measures over the coming weeks that will allow more people to return to work. Wherever that is – whether that is in retail or in more office-based environments - we need those workplaces to be safe. This is the way that we will minimise the risk of a resurgence of the virus.
Colleagues from the Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture have been working with Public Health to develop advice and other resources that are already on our website in the section labelled 'Guidance for businesses and employers'. I am sure that Ian will tell us more about this.
Thank you. Do pass on my thanks to your team at the Department. Such important work to support our businesses as they prepare to welcome customers and staff back in to their premises.
I know I have often praised you – the great Manx public – for everything you have done to suppress the virus in our community. I am now calling on our businesses to help us keep that curve down by ensuring that offices, shops and other places of work are as safe as they possibly can be.
As our Director of Public Health and others have said at these press conferences, social distancing and hand washing will always be our best ally. But we realise that this is not always possible all of the time.
Where it isn’t, we need businesses to be innovative. Might staggered start times help? Are there things to be done around communal work spaces? Where possible, is continued remote working still the answer?
Businesses are best placed to make the decisions. Our teams will be there to advise – and if necessary to enforce.
I will now take questions.
Thank you. Now for this evening’s shout outs.
Today's first shout out goes to 16 year old Matt Cooil. Matt set himself the challenge to cycle a staggering 366 kilometres - one kilometre for each day of this year that our health workers will keep our Island safe. The aim? To raise funds to purchase vouchers from local businesses to be distributed to our frontline health workers. Matt smashed his £500 target, with the total currently standing at just over £2,000. Great job, Matt.
The second shout out for today is a nomination we received for the wonderful Rushen Silver Band. They recently held a virtual concert on Facebook, which was very well received by everyone and lifted many spirits. The concert has been seen by well over twelve thousand people from Tennessee to Adelaide. A bit of a bigger audience than the normal concerts at the Erin Arts Centre! Keeping our community knitted together through events like this is so important. And this demonstrates that by adapting to our current times, there can also be opportunities. Well done to the Rushen Silver Band.
And last but not least, the final shout out for today is for the volunteers of Project Scrubs UCM. This is a group of UCM staff and fashion industry professionals on the Isle of Man, who have made 250 colourful scrubs for the Manx healthcare workers.
The colours of the scrubs were carefully chosen to reflect the skills and values of the Island's healthcare workers: peach for compassion, yellow for hope, red for strength, green for safety, purple for wisdom, blue for faith and brown for security.
Fantastic work all, well done! Thank you.
That is all for this evening. All being well, I should be back tomorrow to brief you on the outcome of the Council of Ministers meeting.
There is a full agenda for the meeting. Our regular review of the measures in place will of course take up a significant portion of that.
Among other things, we will be considering
- The possible resumption of more of our retail sector from Monday
- Proposals on the resumption of some additional sports including archery, target shooting and paddle-sports, crown green and lawn bowls and
- The important question of gatherings
The Minister of Infrastructure will also be joining me to update you on work underway by his Department.
Until then, have a good evening. And whatever you do tomorrow, please stay safe. And make the right decisions for you, your family and our Island.