Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today.
And thank you to all of you who made the right decisions yesterday. I am aware that our announcements did lead to the cancelation of really important events and this will, I know, have caused real disruption.
I am sorry about this. But it did feel that this was the right thing to do given the information we had. And more importantly the information that we didn’t have.
I know that our hospitality industry was heavily impacted yesterday.
Before I hand over to the Health & Social Care Minister and our Director of Public Health for an update, I do want to clarify a comment I made yesterday about support for our businesses. What I wanted to convey was that we didn’t envisage putting in place any new arrangements at that stage. Our track record on providing financial support to businesses is a good one and the salary support scheme is still in place, covering businesses for COVID-related impact in February. It doesn’t matter if it was yesterday, today or for the whole month. The Economic Recovery Group, led by the Treasury Minister, will continue to monitor the overall position and the impact our decisions made.
Thank you once again to our business community who alongside the general public listened and acted, doing the right thing for their Island.
Yesterday, we told you that we could not explain the two cases that we had seen. We were concerned that there was a risk that COVID may be present under the surface of our community. But the evidence that we had yesterday was not conclusive, so we wanted to give ourselves another 24 hours to test and trace, in order to be able to make decisions based on evidence.
We wanted to see if we could understand and link these two new cases and importantly, we wanted to get all the high risk contacts of these contacts identified, isolated and tested.
We have now done that.
I can tell you a little more about where we are heading in a second. First let me hand over to the Minister of Health & Social Care for an update on testing.
Thank you, David.
Without further ado let me hand over to our Director of Public Health for an update on our understanding of the current cases.
Thank you, Dr Ewart.
The fact that those people around our two unexplained cases have all now tested negative is grounds for optimism.
Despite rigorous investigations by the contact tracing team, we are still not clear as to how these cases arose. They remain unexplained for the moment and that may be the final position we find ourselves in.
But as things stand, we are as confident as we can be that there has been no further transmission from these two cases, and at this moment in time, we have not seen any further cases.
The Council of Ministers met earlier today to consider developments. We have decided that we do not need to bring in any further formal measures at this stage.
We have looked at all the options and concluded that we are content for people to go about their business once again.
This means that schools, nurseries and University College Isle of Man can open as usual tomorrow morning.
We will of course continue to monitor the situation very carefully and things might change, and might change rapidly.
The next week or so will be very important in that regard.
So we do need you to please maintain a high level of vigilance. Keep going with the highest levels of hygiene. If you have any COVID-like symptoms then stay at home and call 111.
Please think about what it might mean to you if we do need to do another circuit break. Be ready.
Just because we are not doing it today, it does not mean that we will not need to do it one day soon – and maybe at short notice.
This is especially true for businesses. Thank you for what you did yesterday and please continue to ensure you are ready to do so again, should the need arise.
So no measures today. We believe that this is the right and proportionate approach given the evidence we have.
But if the situation changes then of course so will our approach. But please rest assured that if it is needed then we will do it. We will always do what we judge to be the right thing for our Island based on the best information available.
Some people have been asking about social distancing and the use of face coverings. Some people have been suggesting that we should make this obligatory straight away. At this stage, government is not going to insist on this. That may come, but not today. Again it’s about a proportionate response to the issues that face us at any given time.
Before we move to questions, I do want to take a moment to update you on our vaccination programme.
You may have seen coverage in the UK media that the NHS is expecting a significant increase in vaccine supply in March. We are working closely with the UK to understand what this means in terms of deliveries for us. We are still waiting for final details but we are being told to expect a real uptick.
The team here is ready for this. We are reinforcing the teams to ensure that we are able to increase the pace and maintain that new pace for as long as necessary. We will of course let you know more as soon as we have any further update.
In the meantime, the programme continues to make great progress.
As of last night 84% of those in the first two priority groups have now had at least one dose. To remind you, this is all those over 80, all in a residential care home and their carers, and all frontline health staff.
And now of course we are vaccinating at pace our over 70s and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. So now when we look at the almost twenty thousand people in our first four priority groups – where the vast majority of risk of serious illness rests - 70% have had at least one dose.
Every day we continue with our vaccination programme is a day with more protection in place and a day closer to our ultimate aim.
David, is there anything you would like to add to this and maybe where we are on inviting the next groups for their appointments?
Thank you, David.
This is really important progress.
Let’s go to questions from the media.
Thank you for those questions.
Next week we hope to be sharing our longer term plan for exiting measures. I had wanted to publish this last week but just paused while we dealt these most recent developments.
Thank you to everyone out there for everything you are doing. Please continue to make the right decisions for you, your family and our Island.
Every action makes a difference. Help us to protect the health service and the most vulnerable members of our community. Your actions are helping protect our Island.
You can do this by remembering the basics. And if you have the slightest concern about any COVID-like symptoms then please call 111 as soon as possible.