I hope everyone had a good weekend and enjoyed the glorious sunshine.
It is good to be back with you today, and this Monday it is with our Minister for Enterprise, Lawrence Skelly. Despite rumours to the contrary, the Health & Social Care Minister has not run off to host his own chat show. He will be back with us later in the week.
So it falls to me to share today’s numbers with you.
- The total number of tests undertaken is 5,620
- We have had 5,602 tests returned. Which means there are 18 people waiting for results
- There are no new cases today. Meaning that we are now on day twenty six of no new cases.
- Our number of confirmed cases therefore remains at 336. We have no active cases.
We have talked for some time about 15 June being a significant day in terms of the measures in place. Well here we are. It is a day of real changes for our Island community.
From today, social distancing will no longer be required in most areas of our lives. With the exception of health and care environments, we will be able to meet and greet our friends and family. In a number of ways, I hope that the end of social distancing will bring our community closer together.
So many of you have written to me – or commented on social media – that the one thing that you had been missing more than anything else was a hug from a friend, a parent or a grandchild.
I am sorry that we had to come between you and your love ones. We had to do it to limit the spread of the virus. And I am so glad that gradually – and in a carefully managed way – we have been able to step out of your lives. And today we have given you back your hugs.
Another intrusion that we had to make as the virus arrived on our Island is to control who came into your home. Again, I was not comfortable doing this. It was a regrettable but necessary step.
First it was no one. Then it was two. I am delighted to tell you that the Council of Ministers this morning agreed that with immediate effect we are removing the legal restrictions on the number of people that you can welcome into your home. We have stepped out of your home completely now.
Similarly, we agreed this morning that we would end the legal restrictions on gatherings outside. This is again with immediate effect. While our situation regarding COVID remains so strong, we see no reason to prevent people coming together.
This is of course a logical consequence of the end of social distancing. But it is also an important step towards our Manx normal.
I know that some people will not yet feel comfortable getting too close to others. I understand that. And I respect that. We are not forcing anyone to do anything with which they are not comfortable. If you want to continue to keep your distance for a little while longer then please do so. You know your situation better than I do.
So today is an important day for our society. It is starting to look pretty normal isn’t it?
From today, you can go for a meal indoors. You can go back to the gym. You can have friends around for dinner.
From today, teachers are back in all our schools getting them ready for our children. Children who have been in hubs will return to their normal schools this Wednesday. We have sought views from our Heads. Our hope is that all children who wish to do so will be able to return to school from 22 June – next Monday.
It is also an important day for our economy. I do have some more announcements from this morning’s Council of Ministers meeting. But before I share them with you, I would like to invite the Minister for Enterprise to update us on feedback he is receiving from local businesses.
Thank you. Thanks for the work your department has been doing to support companies and workers during these tough times. There is a long way to go but supporting local businesses wherever we can, has never been more important.
I said I had some more announcements for you.
When I spoke to you last Thursday, I said that I hoped to update you this week on the question of the rest of leisure and hospitality – so pubs, clubs, theatres, and cinemas. So let’s do that.
We had previously suggested that pubs could open today if they offered a food-driven service. We had also said that we hoped that pubs would be able to open before the end of June. The Council of Ministers considered this at our meeting this morning.
We have decided that in light of our current situation, we saw no reason to prevent pubs from opening sooner than that. We have therefore agreed that pubs, bars and clubs can open normally as soon as they are ready to do so after 18 June. This Thursday. Until then, the service does have to be food led.
We also agreed today that cinemas and theatres could open when they are ready to do so after the same date. This Thursday.
This morning, we also discussed the remaining areas of leisure. This included the more intense aerobic activities in gyms, and the swimming pools. We today agreed that these can both resume as soon as the venues are ready after 18 June. This Thursday.
I know that for non-COVID safety reasons, the swimming pools are likely to take a little time – maybe two weeks - to be able to open. But when they are ready, they can open.
One thing that will last just a little beyond Thursday is the speed limit that we put in place. As we have previously announced, this has in any case increased to 60 miles per hour from today. Our plan is that it will revert fully to its pre-COVID state on 22 June.
I am delighted that we have been able to get to this place. By the time these last changes take place, we will almost have taken the final steps out of your lives. You have earned it.
I don’t want to rain on this positive parade. But this is probably the right moment for me to talk about what happens if we do start seeing cases again on our Island.
As I have mentioned before, we are well equipped to respond to any cases popping up. And we are of course doing everything we can to prevent that happening.
Although we only have a small number of people arriving at our borders – every one presents a risk to us. The small numbers of people who are coming onto the Island – returning residents and those critical to keeping the Island running – still have to quarantine.
But if we do see a new case or two, we will be ready to contact trace and break that chain again. We will maintain our testing capacity until it is no longer needed. We will stay vigilant and ready to respond.
Everyone has a role to play to maintain this state of readiness. If any of you develop symptoms – please, whatever you do, don’t assume that it can’t be COVID. Do the responsible thing. Stay at home. Call 111.
Businesses also have a role to play. Although we have removed the legal requirement for social distancing, we will need businesses to consider the implications should we see a return of COVID. We may need to bring back some measures at some stage. And we may need to do so quickly with little notice. This will be a last resort. I would like every business to carefully consider if they are ready to act should the need arise.
To help us all with this, we have developed a new document. Many of you will remember the Stay Safe document. This is how we described how we would go from lock down to the more normal situation we find ourselves in today.
The new document will be something like a reverse roadmap. It will describe what might trigger a return of some of our measures. I will be talking a bit more about this in Tynwald tomorrow. We will then finish discussions with industry, our clinicians and our public health officers. We hope to publish the document by this time next week.
I want as many people as possible to be familiar with it. So that together we understand what we may have to do. And so that we are prepared to act quickly should the need arise.
I am sorry to maybe put a dampener on what should be a thoroughly optimistic day for our Island. But I don’t want us to forget that there is still a global pandemic going on out there. We have earned the right to be optimistic and to resume our normal lives. But we must not be complacent – and we must all continue to act responsibly.
So the question now is “what’s left”? I promised you that we would step out of your life as soon as it was safe to do so. And we have done just that.
As our society comes back together and our economy picks up, I think there are two elements remaining for us to consider.
Borders and Emergency Powers.
On borders, for the moment at least, that is simple. We are not ready to make significant changes. We still need to see a sustained improvement outside our Island – and especially in the United Kingdom. There are signs of things going in the right direction but they are not yet at a place where we can risk people coming back and forth and potentially importing the virus.
On emergency powers, with the removal of the next batch of measures today and over the next week there will be precious few powers still remaining that come from the Emergency Proclamation. I will be making a statement tomorrow in Tynwald tomorrow about next steps.
For now, the Enterprise Minister and I will take questions.
After a lot of baby-steps, we are now picking up pace as we boldly stride towards the future. I know there has been a lot of change in a relatively short period. But it does feel like the right thing to do. Getting our Island up and running.
But please let’s not assume that this virus is gone for good. The basics got us here. And the basics will be no less important for as long as the global pandemic continues.
I said we would step out of your lives. I think we are almost there. Increasingly it is up to you. Up to you to keep making the responsible decisions for you and your loved ones.
Have a great week. And please stay safe.