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Chief Minister's statement on COVID-19 - 3 March 2021

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Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today on Day One of our circuit break lockdown. The Minister for Education, Sport & Culture is here in person and the Minister for Health & Social Care and our Director of Public Health are joining us via Zoom today.

Let me start by handing over to Minister Ashford for an update on testing numbers from the last twenty four hours. We will come back to an update on vaccinations and other matters a bit later.

Thank you to everyone who has contacted 111. Now - more than ever before - it is critical that if you show any COVID-like symptoms that you call 111 and seek advice. We need to identify and isolate the virus as quickly as possible.

I know that the 111 line has been swamped over the last 24 hours and has had some technical difficulties. We are working with Manx Telecom to try to resolve this. In the meantime, please persevere.

As you can imagine, the contact tracing team and 111 are dealing with a considerable volume of work at the moment. We already have approaching three hundred households that we have directed to self-isolate. And as we move through the contact tracing, there will undoubtedly be more.

As you will be aware, a number of pupils, teaching and support staff at two of the Island's schools have been asked to self-isolate and to wait to be contacted by 111.

I would like to bring in Minister Allinson at this point to say a few words.

You're message to families is an important one. Home is the safest place at the moment. If you can keep your children at home, please do so.

Our swabbing team are already working at pace. And this is likely to increase significantly as we move through the coming days.

I need to prepare you for what we are likely to see in the coming days. The number of positives and the number of active cases will increase fast. This is certainly what we have seen elsewhere.

If there is a silver lining to this black cloud it is that the cases that we are seeing now come from transmission in the past.

The measures that we now have in place will help to prevent future transmission of the virus. But it will take time for us to see the impact of the circuit break in our daily numbers.

The numbers will get worse before they get better. And maybe significantly. I need people to be ready for this.

And I do need to remind you that the measures we have in place will only work if everyone keeps to the rules.

With everything you do, please think about your Island. This virus is vicious and invisible. Every slip up – whether it is by accident or through someone thinking that the rules don't apply to them - can have massive effects.

Please do the right thing.

I would like to move onto our vaccination programme.

As I said yesterday, once enough of our people – especially our most vulnerable – are protected through vaccination, we should be able to make different decisions.
The programme is working at pace. The team has pulled out all the stops and is working long hours.

I know there has been a lot of comment about the need to move faster. I know there is a certain amount of frustration. But there is also a certain amount of misinformation. I will hand over to the Minister on this in a second but I do just want to share a couple of the headline statistics that have caught my attention.

A first dose has now been given to everyone in our Priority Group One who has chosen and been able to have a vaccination. This is residents in care homes and their carers. This is an important milestone.

Looking at things more broadly, Priority Group Two – so those who are aged 80 and over and frontline health & social care staff is now at 83% for first doses. And Group Three – those who are aged 75 and over is at 84%.

Our recent focus has been on our Group Four which is those who are aged 70 and over and – importantly – those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. I am pleased to see that this group is almost at 40% for first doses and increasing fast.

If we take all four of the first priority groups together - so that is a cohort of almost 23 thousand of our most vulnerable people – almost 70% have now had a first dose. And this is people who have had it – not just been "offered it".

When I was briefed this morning, the team told me that on current planning – and if nothing disrupts that – we are on track to have given a first dose to everyone in the first nine priority groups – so everyone over 50 and every adult with underlying health issues – around mid-April. And every adult by the end of May.

So still some way to go, but this is excellent progress.

David, do you want add to this? I know you also want to pick up some issues around booking vaccinations.

Before I go to questions from the media, I would like to say a word about accurate information.

I know social media can be an important way for people to stay in touch with loved ones. But it can always be a way for inaccurate information to spread. We all know that there is nothing more powerful than the Manx rumour mill.

Please think carefully before you share information. Think about whether the source is reliable. Think about whether what you are sharing might harm others.

We know that one of the things that's really important to people is getting the right information at the right time. Government will always do what it can to get information out as quickly as possible.

One tool that we are increasingly using as well as traditional and social media is a system called Everbridge. It is our mass notification system. It's easy to sign up and it allows Government to alert you quickly and easily about important or urgent information. To sign up, search for Isle of Man Emergency Planning or go to and then click on the link to sign up. If you are watching this online, there should be a link at the bottom of the screen. Or keep your eyes on government's social media channels where we will be sharing details on how to sign up.

Thank you for everything you are doing.

I know this is not easy. I know many of you are deeply disappointed that we have had to go back into a circuit break lockdown. I am too.

But given the circumstances, it was the right thing to do. We just need to get through the coming weeks to ensure our vaccination programme can continue at pace so that we can move into a different phase.

For now, the message is simple.

Stay at home. And I really must implore you to adhere to this rule. Please only go out if you really do need to. The more people we have at home, the less the likelihood of this virus spreading. How quickly we bring this outbreak under control is in all of our hands. Please be responsible, we all have such an important role to play through our decisions and actions.

If you do have to go out, please wear a face covering as much as possible.

If you feel any symptoms, please self-isolate and call 111 as soon as possible.

Respect the rules and we will get through this. Please make the right decisions for you, your family and your Island.