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Chief Minister's statement on COVID-19 - 2 July 2020

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Good afternoon, 

I am pleased to be here with you today as we look ahead to Tynwald Day and - for many - a long weekend to spend with family and friends. 

This should provide an opportunity to reflect on the challenges we’ve faced as an Island over the past few months. 

To think about how far we’ve come. And that the reason that we are able to get together is thanks to our community’s collective commitment in getting us to where we are today. 

As life has begun to settle and feel largely normal again, the Island’s border restrictions remain a major policy challenge for the Council of Ministers.   

The situation continues to be complex. Tough conversations have taken place with strong emotion on both sides of the debate. 

Last Thursday, I said I would bring you more news regarding the five stage framework we have in place to provide a safe and controlled pathway to opening up our borders. 

I will come to that – and other matters - in a moment. But first I would like to invite the Health & Social Care Minister to run through today’s numbers. I know that the Minister also would like to share an update on the maternity ward.  

Thank you, David.

Last week I said that the Council of Ministers would look once again at our borders policy. I said that we would consider if we were ready to take the next step in allowing more movement in a safe and controlled way.

The Council of Ministers discussed this in detail today. We looked at relevant data. And we considered the situation faced by our near neighbours and further beyond.

We decided that we were NOT ready to move from Level Five to Level Four. Not least while so much uncertainty remains in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. We may be close, but are not there yet.

I'm aware this will be a relief to some and a frustration to others. But in line with our approach right up to this point - we feel it is better to be cautious.

New cases have caused spikes in certain areas in the United Kingdom and we are not willing to jeopardise our position while this remains a developing situation.

But we do know that we cannot keep the borders closed for ever. The Council of Ministers will consider this again next Thursday and I will update you then.

Staying on borders policy – the Council of Ministers did agree today to lift the restrictions on the number of our residents who can return each week.

This move is designed to speed up the return of those who have been approved to travel under the existing rules for returning residents. We want to bring those last people home before we make any further changes.

We will be making announcements in the coming days on how this will happen for those already in the system.

But please remember - the border is closed to everyone other than those who have specific exemptions. You will only be granted entry to the Island if you have a valid exemption.

I would now like to move on to testing and a slight change we are making to ensure that we get the earliest possible warning of any cases on the Island.

Testing remains the cornerstone of our strategy against this virus. And it is vital that anyone who has symptoms calls 111 to arrange for a test. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

We know that some people may be reluctant to do so because they worry that even if they are negative, they would have to self-isolate for fourteen days.

So from tomorrow, a new process will be in place for anyone of us who has been on the Island for more than fourteen days who thinks they may have COVID-19 symptoms.

Now, when you call 111 because of symptoms, the team will arrange a test as usual. But now rather than instructing you to self-isolate for fourteen days regardless, the team will ask you to remain in self-isolation until you get their test result back.

If the result is negative – and as long as you feel well in yourself - you will no longer be required to self-isolate by law and can go back to work or school.

If the COVID test is positive, then of course the process remains unchanged – fourteen days self-isolation along with any members of your household, and the contact tracing process will begin.

This change has only just been agreed and the website will be updated with the latest information by the end of the week.

As more everyday activities take place, it is important to take a step back and remember that although our Manx bubble is free of COVID, it doesn't make us immune from coughs and colds.

We are mixing with each other in close proximity again and bugs are always about. It is unavoidable.

What we can do is ensure we Stay Responsible by maintaining good levels of hygiene. This is not just about COVID. It is just the right thing to do.

Remember to: Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.

And wash your hands frequently.

Many services available at our hospital are beginning to resume. I am grateful to all those who have worked hard to make this possible. But we have to remember that the process can take longer in some cases than others.

I need to ask everyone out there to remember that all our health and social care staff - who have been under a great amount of pressure in recent months - are doing their absolute best to return services to normal.

Please bear with us and show understanding when enquiring on the status of appointments. These people deserve our respect.

We know these press briefings remain popular, and they will continue. As Monday is a bank holiday and attention will be focussed on the Tynwald Day ceremony in St John's - the next one is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

Statistics will be published tomorrow - and will then pause for the long weekend - before resuming on Tuesday.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has the opportunity to take some time this weekend - particularly as we celebrate our National Day - to appreciate how far we've come, and the collective effort involved in getting us here.

For some, Tynwald Day is a ceremonial occasion to be marked solemnly in recognition of our national identity and long, proud history.

For others, it is marked in the calendar as a chance to mingle, have a drink and catch up with people we haven't seen since the previous year.

However you choose to spend Tynwald Day, maybe take a moment to reflect how we have proved we are One Island - One Community.

We have responded to an unseen threat and have looked out for each other.

Everything we have achieved - we have achieved together.

We have done this by understanding the risks and making the right decisions for our community. We worked together for the good of our precious Island.

And we must continue to Stay Responsible while navigating the best way forward in what is a constantly evolving situation.