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Chief Minister's statement on COVID-19 - 22 March 2021

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Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today.

The Treasury Minister is here with me at the podium. He will be updating us about what he and the team have been doing to support our people, our businesses and our economy. He will also be able to answer any questions at the end. On Zoom today we have the Minister for Health & Social Care as well as our Director of Public Health.

Before that, we will go to our regular updates. Starting with the Minister of Health & Social Care on today's numbers.


Thank you, David.

We continue to see unexplained cases. This is deeply frustrating of course. The team has been redoubling its efforts to see if we can understand why this is happening. We have spoken here about why this might be happening. Our Director of Public Health told us last week about one possible reason relating to what might be a long incubation period for the Kent variant.

But beyond that, now that that we have been in this latest lockdown for nearly three weeks, we should not be seeing these unexplained, unlinked cases unless people are not following the rules.

We know that there has been spread because of people going to work with symptoms. And the volume of traffic still on our roads suggests that too many people are still coming into workplaces.

Let me hand over to our Director of Public Health for her update.

Dr Ewart

Thank you Dr Ewart.

We have to protect our critical services. If we don’t, they may not be there when we need them most. Of course I mean our hospital. But I also mean our police and other emergency services, our food producers and retailers, our pharmacists, our dentists, our prison staff and so many other people who keep our Island safe and moving. We must not take them for granted.

We are a small Island with limited resilience. Every time anyone goes out and mixes with another household, there is risk. Risk of spread of this virus. A risk to our critical services and businesses. And of course a risk to us being able to exit this circuit break in a timely manner.

The message is clear. But I will say it again. Stay at home unless it is essential for you to leave. I cannot say it clearer than that.  The rules apply to you too.

And if you are going into the workplace, is it really essential? And if you are an employer, are you putting your employees and your Island at risk by insisting they come in – or even just allowing them to do so?

Our businesses want this lockdown to be over as soon as possible. Of course they do. The vast majority of our businesses are doing the right thing. We are grateful for that. We know that it is tough. And we are doing what we can to support them.

This is a good time to hand to the Treasury Minister.


Thank you, Alf.

And thank you to the teams who have got the support schemes up and running – and most importantly money into people’s pockets – so quickly.

I mentioned before our food and other essential retailers. They play such a crucial role on our Island – doubly so during a lockdown. They are working hard to keep us fed and ensure we have what we need to keep going.

We have been working with them to make sure they can. They have asked me to pass on some important messages.

First, please think of others. Respect people’s space. Don’t lean over them to reach things. Be patient. Social distancing rules apply, even when you are wearing a mask.

Only buy what you need. There are no supply issues. Try to visit stores at different times to avoid queues. And please avoid shopping during times that have been arranged for the elderly, the vulnerable and key workers.

Second, please shop safely. Whenever possible, shop on your own. Where there are sanitising stations, please use them. Only handle things that you plan to buy.

And third, please respect those working in our shops. They are working hard for us. We owe them our gratitude.

I know that our announcement on “Teaming Up” or “support bubbles” caused a lot of interest and a lot of questions on Friday and over the weekend.

I know that the announcement caused a certain amount of confusion. And I apologise for that. With the benefit of hindsight, we could have waited twenty four hours and got all the guidance ready before announcing it. But we knew there were people who were desperate for support and we wanted to get the news out as soon as possible. In this case we did get it rushed, not right.

But officers worked over the weekend to get guidance and other important documents ready. That guidance – on our Manx support bubbles – is now published. We will update it as this develops. People who may have difficulties accessing the website can call the Community Support Line on 686-262.

As I said on Friday, the Council of Ministers’ intention behind this change was to allow those who live alone or lone parents to be able to seek support from another household. This is about people who need support.

We are trusting you to see it for what it is. We are fully aware that a small minority may seek to push this and abuse this trust. We will take action if this becomes necessary.

One concern we have is people chopping and changing their bubble. In other jurisdictions they have rules about air gaps – ten or fourteen days - between an old bubble and a new. Given that we hope to exit this lockdown in April, we do not think that system would work here. Instead, we will be asking those who do need to bubble to do so with the same person or people until at least the 6 April.

Over the weekend, the Community Support Line took a number of calls on support bubbles. One common question was around whether these bubbles could also exist outside the home.  So whether those who have decided they need a support bubble can share a car and exercise with others from that bubble.

I can confirm that we are content for those who have decided that they have a need to enter a support bubble to extend this outdoors. They can car share and exercise together. We will need to make some changes to our legal directions so this will come into effect from the first minute of Wednesday.  Revised guidance will be available tomorrow.   

But I do also need to make clear – as we have done on a number of occasions – that every time one household mixes with another, it can increase risk. People need to make the right decisions for them. This includes making decisions about maintaining social distance and the use of face coverings when these contacts take place.

Remembering that anyone you have contact with could be positive is not a bad starting point when thinking about whether a support bubble is something you need.

We will keep this under review. If we can do more as the days go on and the data tells us we can – then we will.

Just before I go to questions from the media, I just want to touch on the question of our population who have now had one or two doses of one of the vaccines.

This is of course a fast growing group of people. Later today or tomorrow, we will pass an important milestone of thirty thousand of our people having had at least one dose.

But we do need to remember that the vaccine doesn’t make us immortal. It doesn’t prevent us from catching the virus. Neither can we be sure that it prevents us passing it on to others.  We need to keep going with the basics.

Let’s go to questions from the media.

Thank you for those questions.

I know many of you have now watched the recording on vaccinations that we put out this weekend. There have been over nineteen thousand views already on social media. Thanks as always to James Davis for facilitating that. We have a couple of other themes in the pipeline. But we are always open to ideas.

We should be back on Thursday so that I can brief you on any decisions taken by the Council of Ministers and provide any further updates.

Until then, please stay at home as much as you possibly can. We need to drive down these cases.

If you do go out, please wear a face covering.

If you do go out to exercise – exercise locally. And exercise safely – low risk activities that avoid placing pressure on emergency services should something go wrong.

And please if you show any symptoms at all, do not brush it off. Do not put others at risk. Stay at home and call 111.

Please continue to make the right decisions for you, your family and your Island