Skip to main content

Chief Minister's Statement on COVID-19 - 23 April 2020

Return To News releases & statements


Good afternoon 

I am joined today by the Health & Social Care Minister and also by Dr Henrietta Ewart, our Director of Public Health.  

Without further ado, I will ask the Health & Social Care Minister to take you through today’s statistics.  


Thank you, David. The difference between the situation here and across in the United Kingdom is pretty stark. It is important that we remember this. 

Before we hear from Dr Ewart, I would like to cover a few points of my own.  

I know that a lot of you found the Chief Constable’s appearance yesterday interesting and reassuring. I certainly did.  

I know from your comments that a lot of you were also reassured when you understood what the changes did and didn’t mean for you and for the Island.  

I said that I would come back to you today after this morning’s meeting of the Council of Ministers with a little more detail on what activities people can and can’t do from tomorrow.  

As I have said, we will be publishing guidelines on our website and on social media. But maybe I could give you some headlines.  

On sport and recreation, the Council of Ministers agreed that we are NOT ready to open sporting venues or facilities that bring together groups of people.   

The underlying principle of the measures we have in place is to minimise the risk of spread of the virus. The time is not right for us to open gyms, sports clubs etc or to allow collective sports.  

You can go out and exercise if you can do so while maintain social distancing rules – and this is an important point – WITH PEOPLE FROM YOUR HOUSEHOLD.  

What does this mean? Yes you can kick a football in the park. Yes you can walk along the Promenade or through a glen. Yes you can do your yoga on the beach. But WITH PEOPLE FROM YOUR HOUSEHOLD. We are not yet in a position where we can allow you to do this with your extended family or your friends.  

I know not being able to meet with friends and family is tough. And I hope that we will be able to make this change before too long. But we are not ready to make that change yet.  

The other important principle around sport and recreation is not to burden our emergency services. Please don’t do anything that could take up valuable time or bed space in our hospital. We need to trust you to make the right choices.  

When I listed all the things that would NOT be changing tomorrow, I didn’t mention non-essential shops, bars, restaurants etc. I should have. Again we are NOT yet ready to reopen these. We are keeping this under regular review.  

Our approach is simple. Change. Track. Assess. Review.  

  • We will make carefully considered CHANGES.  
  • We will TRACK the impact they might have.  
  • We ASSESS whether this impacts on the capacity of our Health & Social Care sector.  
  • We will REVIEW and decide if we can go further.  

Robust data will be incredibly important to us getting this right.  The Health & Social Care Minister will be focussing on this in his briefing tomorrow alongside our experts.  

One of the rich streams of data that we have is from our testing and tracing. This is the responsibility of our Public Health colleagues. I would therefore like to handover to our Director of Public Health, Dr Henrietta Ewart for an update.  


Thank you for the update, Henrietta. And thank you for everything you and your colleagues have been doing. I am incredibly grateful.  

Before I go to questions, I would like to make two final points.  

Firstly on transparency. This is something that is personally important to me. I committed to you when we started these press conferences that I would be as open with you as possible. We are trying our best to share information with you as soon as possible and as clearly as possible. We may not always get this right – I know that. But we are trying our best.  

If there are any topics that you would like us to cover at these briefings, then let us know. We won’t be able to cover all of them. But let us know and we will see what we can do. We welcome your views. Why not comment on Facebook or Twitter? 

The second is about Abbotswood. The deaths that we have seen there are heart-breaking. I know some people have been asking about reviews or investigations.  All I can say at the moment is that right now our absolute priority is the welfare of the residents.   

As the Health & Social Care Minister has mentioned a few times this week in response to questions, we have stepped in to support Abbotswood.  

We are doing this in a variety of ways, clinical and non-clinical. We have providing support on deep cleaning, laundry services, and essential repairs.  A team of clinicians – and teams supporting them – are ensuring that the residents receive the best possible care.  

I will now take questions

I would like to end with some shout outs.  

First, it would be remiss of me not to give a formal shout out to all of the team who have gone in to support Abbotswood.  People from across the Island and across the medical and social care sector have stepped up to deal with this terrible situation. I cannot applaud them all enough. And within this shout out, I would like to make special mention of the cleaning teams. This is essential, lifesaving work that maybe doesn’t get recognised enough. Thank you.  

Second, I want to send a shout out to Peggy Scarffe, 94 years young from Douglas. She is fast becoming a social media sensation – known as QueenPeggy. She set out to raise £200 for the Friends of Noble's Hospital by posting a video to TikTok every time she raised £50.  Having already smashed her target with £765 and counting, Peggy is now aiming for £1,000.  Amazing stuff, Peggy. Thank you.  

Thirdly. Yesterday we gave a shout out to Skyler, who was painting and selling rocks to raise money for donations for the health and social care service. Her friend, 11 year old Emily Collister, also from Castletown, is doing the same. So far, Emily has raised over £120. Both girls are showing initiative by doing their bit to help in these difficult times. So impressive. Entrepreneurs of the future! 


So wrapping up now, I just wanted to say that it has been great to be back at our press conferences this week. I had missed it. 

As I mentioned, I will be handing the reins to the Health & Social Care Minister for tomorrow’s briefing. We then have other Ministers for our weekend briefings to update you on their areas of responsibility.  

I hope to be back on Monday. I look forward to seeing you all then. In the meantime, please have a safe weekend. Stay at home if you can.  

And if you do decide to go out, please make the right choices for your health, for the health of your family and for your community.  

Before I go, I did want to give a plug for the Isle of Man Sports Awards. You can watch it from the comfort of your own home this evening as the event is shown online for the ever time. 

The annual award ceremony was postponed last month in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but organisers Isle of Man Sport, wanted to ensure that the dedication and successes of local sportsmen and women was recognised and celebrated. 

You can watch all eleven awards being made on the Isle of Man Sport YouTube Channel and social media platforms starting at 7pm. 

I will leave you now with a word from some of the nominees.  

Remember – the safest place to be is at home.