Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today.
I am here at the podium with the Minister of Health & Social Care. And our Director of Public Health joins us on Zoom.
I will hand over to the Minister for today’s update. Before I do, I would like to say a few words about the terrible news from the weekend. In the space of just twenty-four hours, two more members of our community died from COVID-19.
This is an awful tragedy for the whole Island but especially of course for their loved ones. My thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time. We must never forget the lives that have been lost during this pandemic.
Let me pass across to the Minister of Health and Social Care for his update today.
Thank you, David.
It is good news that for four days now we have seen no unexplained cases – the last being the one we reported at our Thursday briefing.
Good news yes. But we have to keep going and maintain our vigilance. We may now be starting to see the end of this lockdown coming over the horizon. And yes we can allow ourselves to feel some cautious optimism. The measures we have put in place and the way you – the Great Manx Public – have responded is having the impact we need.
But we do need to strengthen our resolve to get through the next period. As I said last week, none of us want another lockdown. Now that we can start to imagine the end of this one – and with the vaccination programme continuing to deliver at pace – we must not fall at the final hurdle.
As I am sure Dr Ewart will remind us, just because we have seen four days with no unexplained cases, it does not yet mean we can be sure that COVID is not circulating in our community unseen.
Let me hand over to our Director of Public Health for her regular update.
Thank you Dr Ewart.
So each day is important in better understanding where we are on this journey.
The Council of Ministers met again this morning to consider the latest data and advice. We agreed that as things stand, we are still on track to be able to start making some changes to measures from around 6 April – one week from tomorrow.
We need to see how the next few days unfold and hope to make decisions this Thursday. I will update you at our briefing on Thursday afternoon.
I do need to make two important points on all this.
First, if the situation does deteriorate then our plans may have to change. We all want this to be a one-way journey out of lockdown. So this means we need to get it absolutely right. And we must not rush.
Second, based on what we know today, we need to be ready for a gradual easing out of lockdown. We want to ensure that the steps we are taking are as safe as possible for our community.
Yes we are clear that we only want measures in place for as long as we judge them to be absolutely necessary. But equally, we know how tough lockdowns are on our society, our mental health, our businesses, and our economy. We all need to move forwards but treading carefully as we do so.
I remain confident that if we keep up the high levels of vigilance, hygiene and social distancing then we can continue our cautious move towards better times.
I would like to give you an update on schools. It is important that the education of our young people is not impacted any more than necessary. This is so important for so many reasons.
But it is of course critical that any return to school is carefully considered and safe for all. The same of course applies to the pre-school sector, which is also important for so many families.
The Council of Ministers this morning heard from the Minister for Education, Sport & Culture on this. He and his team are working with schools, pre-school providers and Public Health to finalise a plan for a safe return. I have asked him to join us on Thursday to update us.
Just before we go to questions, I would again like to thank the teams of people involved in the vaccination programme for all they are doing.
We passed another important milestone today when the vaccination team visited Springfield Grange nursing home to administer thirty-six vaccines there. This means that all care home residents have now received both doses of their vaccination. A really important achievement in the protection of the most vulnerable members of our community.
We are progressing well through the age groups. Two thirds of those in their 60s have now had at least one dose.
The letters to our over-50s have been going out over the last week. I know some people in that age group have already been receiving their doses. By now, all those 55-59 should have received a letter. And the final batch of letters for those aged 50-54 is due to be sent today.
When you get your letter, please use the online form or call 111 to make your appointment. Please don’t delay.
All being well, we will be back on Thursday with another update.
Until then, please stay at home as much as you possibly can. The number of cases is coming down. And most importantly, so are the unexplained cases.
You have done this by staying at home. By only going out when it is really necessary. And by wearing a face covering as much as possible.
And you have done this by calling 111 if you have anything that might be symptoms. This is no less important as we go forwards. It could only take one person going into work when they should have stayed at home to put us back to square one.
Please continue to make the right decisions for you, your family and your Island.