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Chief Minister's Statement on COVID-19 - 30 April 2020

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Good afternoon

We have a lot to get through this afternoon.

I am delighted to be joined today by Ray Harmer, the Minister for Infrastructure. DOI have been a critical partner in the work government has done to prepare and deal with the impact of COVID-19.

I won’t steal his thunder. He can tell you a lot more about this in a moment.  But first of all, I would like to ask the Health & Social Care Minister to cover today’s statistics.

Thank you, David.

It is worth pointing out that these cases – yesterday and today – are too early to be directly linked to the changes we made last Friday.

As you say, there is no cause for immediate alarm, but it is a stark reminder that we can take nothing for granted when dealing with this pandemic. We need to keep up all our efforts on social distancing, hand washing and wider hygiene.

I would like to update you all on a marathon Council of Ministers meeting today.  We discussed and considered a number of papers. I wanted to share with you my impressions on those bits of the discussion that may impact on your lives. 

The Council of Ministers have agreed that our next fundamental review point will be 7 May. We decided on this date on the advice of our clinicians and policy officials. This will give us the space to amass the data that we need to be able to make the best decisions for our Island.

I want to make a couple of important points on this.

First, it does not mean that we will be announcing wholesale changes on that date. We will – and I know you have heard this a lot – progress in small, manageable, clinically driven steps. We will make decisions on the data and the clinical data we have. And please don’t forget that if the data is telling us that we can’t make changes, we won’t.

Second, any measures that we may decide on 7 May, may not come into effect on that date. It may be that we need to amend legislation and need time to do that. It may be that the changes we decide need a lead time from industry.

I can commit to you that we will operate in a transparent manner.

On transparency more widely, the Council of Ministers today also considered the strategy document that I have mentioned to you from this lectern. It is the document that describes our medium term approach to COVID – what decisions we see ahead of us and how we will be making those decisions. There was broad support of the document – and the approach - across Council. We have asked for some final detailed changes and we expect to publish it on our website after the Council of Ministers has had a final review at its meeting Saturday morning. We will then debate the document on Tuesday in Tynwald.

Some people have referred to it as an Exit Strategy.  This does of course beg the question of what we will be exiting to. This remains the big unknown. I wish I knew the answer. Life will not be the same as it was for some time to come. Until there are real game changers such as a vaccine, we have to learn to live with the virus and manage it in our Island community.

But I hope that what you will see will be a path ahead that gets us to the new normal. A new Manx normal.

The Council of Ministers also considered papers on golf and fishing. We know how important these – and sport in general - are to people’s wellbeing over these challenging times.

I am able to announce that from Saturday morning, recreational angling will be allowed under the current restrictions. There will be some exceptions. We are not yet ready to allow:

  • Angling by boat or by kayak
  • The opening of privately owned fisheries
  • Angling by anyone who has symptoms or has anyone in their household with symptoms

And for those of you rushing to get your fishing kit ready for Saturday morning, please remember the importance of maintaining strict social distancing and hygiene rules. Please respect other people’s space. And of course make sure you have a fishing licence.

We also discussed golf. I am grateful for all the work that has been done by the industry to work with us to establish what would be needed to allow golf to resume. The Council of Ministers has asked for some additional details and the Minister for Education, Sport & Culture will be able to update you at his press conference on Saturday.

Now seems like a good time to hand over to the Minister for Infrastructure for an update.

Thank you, Ray.

Please pass on my personal thanks to your colleagues. I have been so impressed at the ingenuity and flexibility they shown. And it has not just been about the teams who have been fixing and building. DOI staff have being redeployed to support other departments has been such an important contribution. And as you pointed out, we also must not forget the crucial work keeping the Island running.

I will now take questions.


Thank you. Before I go, some shout outs.

First, a Shout Out across the Irish Sea. Today marks the 100th Birthday of Captain Tom Moore – or, more appropriately, Colonel Tom Moore following his honorary promotion yesterday.

Tom has captured the imagination of people across these islands and the wider world with his 100th Birthday Walk for the UK’s NHS, with fundraising now at a truly staggering £31 million. 

Tom represents the best of us, serving as a beacon of hope and of pride in these unsettling and sorrowful times. 

Tom has demonstrated the power of the human spirit, the power of determination and resolve, the power of caring for others and - perhaps most importantly - the public’s admiration and devotion to our health and care professionals and to a health service that is open and accessible to all, regardless of means.

Knowing that Colonel Tom’s milestone birthday was on the horizon, students at St Ninian’s High School worked on a special birthday card.  The Manx triskelion on a sea of red.  A fitting symbol not just of our Island’s resilience but also of Tom’s.

Despite receiving 125,000 birthday cards, I am sure this unique design will catch the Colonel’s eye. 

Well done to all the pupils who took part and my thanks to all of our teaching and support staff working so hard in our special units across the Island.

On behalf of the Isle of Man Government and – I think it safe to say – the people of the Isle of Man, I would like to wish Tom a very happy 100th birthday.

Of course, Colonel Tom is not alone is raising money at this time.  Here on the Island people have been doing all sorts of inspiring and amazing things to raise money for good causes and for our health and care service.

One such example is Ella Quayle, who is 16 and from Douglas.  Ella has raised almost £3,000 for the Noble’s Hospital Equipment Trust by shaving her head.  A fantastic effort that will make a real difference.  Thank you Ella

Finally for today, I want to thank the first wave of Island residents who were repatriated to our shores a fortnight ago and acknowledge the sacrifices they have made for the greater good of our community. 

I am pleased to say that yesterday they left the Comis hotel to return to their homes.

Of all the measures Government has put in place in our fight against COVID-19, I think it safe it say that repatriation has been one of the most emotive and debated.

I know that, for those residents who found themselves off-Island when we closed our borders, the past few weeks have been difficult – sometimes arduous, and this process continues for some. 

For those who have made it home, I know that being ‘home’ on your Island but not in your own homes has been frustrating and unsettling.

Together, everyone on our Island has worked to flatten the curve: and we are succeeding. 

I have made clear that our repatriation process was developed from clinical advice.  Our returning residents have played a vital role in our efforts to keep the virus at bay through a 14 day period of isolation, helping keep our Island community safe from ravages of a second wave.

It may not mean much, but I do sincerely thank you.

I have committed to keeping this process under constant review. We may be able to make changes in the future as our understanding of the virus develops and if the situation on our Island allows.

Please keep safe. And make the right decisions for you, for your family and for our Island.