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Chief Minister's Statement on COVID-19 - 4 May 2020

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Good afternoon

As well as the Minister for Health & Social Care, I am really delighted to be joined by Dr Rizwan Khan our Consultant Microbiologist. I remember Dr Khan’s last appearance at our press conferences and have been looking forward to his update today.

I will ask the Minister to go through today’s statistics with you. David,

Thank you, David

I hope you all had a good and restful weekend. I hope you were able to enjoy some of the sunshine with members of your household.

Thank you to those of you who ensured that social distancing measures were respected across the Island. This will be the best thing we can do for the foreseeable future.

The Chief Constable has reported this morning that compliance levels across the Island have been broadly good. But there continue to be reports of people not respecting the rules around gathering and social distancing.

I know that the measures in place are tough on many people. And I know that a quick look at the daily statistics might suggest we are out of the woods and there is no longer a need to respect the rules. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes we are cautiously optimistic about the situation. But we are where we are because of you all respecting the rules. If we trip up now, we could ruin all the hard work and sacrifices we have made.

We are looking every day at what we can do to make this easier. But people bending or breaking the rules will only make it harder for us to have confidence about the next steps.

There is sadly still a hard core group of people who are deliberately breaking the law and prosecutions are still taking place.

Today, we published an important document. It is called our Medium Term Approach to COVID-19

Maybe not the snappiest title. I like to think of it as our roadmap for the coming months. 

It outlines the second stage in our response. The first of course was the introduction of Stay at Home and the measures we brought in to protect our Island community.

The document does look back at this first stage. It tells you what we – as an Island - have done and achieved so far. The journey we have taken together so far.

It shows the significant impact that together we have all had in the first stage. You have heard me talking a lot about this. The most important thing was that we built capacity in our health sector. But we have done a lot besides. We have brought in legislation that we needed. We have strengthened our infrastructure to protect us. We have put in place schemes to support businesses and workers.

In turn, you have done your bit, sticking to the rules and pushing the curve right down. We asked you to supress it – and you did it.

But more importantly, the document we have published today describes the journey ahead of us. It gives you our best assessment of the decisions that we think we will need to be addressing in the coming months.  We wanted to give you as much transparency as possible on that.

It tells you how we have broken down what is an incredibly complex picture into manageable areas. These areas are based around our needs in Health, Society and the Economy.  This is the balance we need to work to achieve as we go forward.

It tells you how we will make the decisions and what some of our limitations are.

As you will see, there are not firm dates.  As I said, this is a roadmap. It sets out where we are and where we want to get to. But we are unlikely to be able to get there “as the crow flies”.  Just because two elements are both in our “Level 2” it does not mean that they will necessarily happen at the same time.

We will be driven by advice from our clinical leadership team. We will make decisions in the best interests of the Island. We will make changes when we think the moment is right. We cannot be driven by dates in the diary.

There may be delays along the way. We may need to pause. We may need to vary our route. We may even need to reverse up and take a different route altogether. I hope it won’t come to this. But I do need to be clear that if we see significant spikes in the spread of the virus, we may need to consider this.

As well as telling you about the achievements so far, and showing you how we will move forward, it also tells you that we will regularly review our plan. And we will share our thinking with you as soon and as clearly as possible.

As I mentioned last week, the next fundamental review point for the Council of Ministers will be this Thursday. We will be considering then what we may or may not be able to do next. I will brief you on the outcome on Thursday evening.

Now, I often talk about basing our decision making on the best possible data. One key source of data is from our testing. Establishing the on-Island testing facility has clearly been a great achievement and has allowed us to manage our own processes without having to rely on our friends across in Manchester.

Our facility has a capacity of around 200 per day. I know that people have asked why we are not using that full capacity. The Health & Social Care Minister has told you that we have been gearing up to a new approach on testing. The Council of Ministers approved this approach at its meeting in Saturday. I would like to invite the Minister and Dr Khan to tell you more about that.


Thank you to both. And Dr Khan, please do take my best wishes to all your colleagues working on testing. We are all very proud of what you have achieved.

Before I take questions, I wanted to address two points about which members of the public have been in touch with us about.

The first is sport and recreation. I have been pleased at the comments we have received from so many of you around our decision to allow golf and fishing to resume – albeit with restrictions in place.

Colleagues at the Department of Education, Sport & Culture are working with other sporting bodies to look at what can be done to safely reintroduce a number of different sports.  Together they are developing papers on which we will be asking for clinical advice and views before the Council of Ministers discusses them.  We will let you know as soon as we have news. And thank you to the sporting associations for their engagement.

Second is around family contact. I know how important this is to people. It pains me that I have not been able to sit down and have a good chat with my own parents and other close relatives for some time now.

A lot of you have told us that this is the single thing that would make the current restrictions more bearable. And some of you have told us that this is the toughest thing for your mental health – to not be able to see your loved ones.

We are not quite at the point where we are able to lift the restriction on seeing people from other households.  This has been such an important contribution to stopping the spread of the virus.

But – as I promised you – I have asked our clinicians what might be possible while still being safe. They have now come back to me.  I would like to read from their reply.

'The current downward trend in daily positive COVID-19 cases shows that the measures introduced by the government have been successful in suppressing spread of the coronavirus.

Despite the fall in number of positive COVID-19 cases, we know the virus is still circulating in our community.  We still need to protect those most at risk of serious COVID-19 from catching the virus.

Older people, over the age of 70, continue to be at significant risk of severe disease if they get COVID-19.  Whether they are living in the community or in residential care, older people are still advised to self-isolate as far as possible to avoid coming into contact with the virus.

It is still possible to have a face to face conversation with your loved one so long as you do not enter their home and you can maintain a 2 m distance from them.  You can do this, for example, by visiting at a pre-arranged time and talking to them while they are at a window or doorstep and you are 2 m away in the garden or on the street.'

I am really grateful to our clinicians for their clarification of this.

I know that this may not work for everyone. Especially if people live in an upper floor flat for example. And of course the restrictions in place for visiting nursing homes are important to maintain for the time being.

But I hope this clarification will help some see their loved ones. I know I will be looking forward to taking a deck chair and setting up in my parents’ garden to chat to them this weekend.

And if you are alone, maybe arrange a socially distance and safe deckchair meeting with a friend or a neighbour. Let’s support each other’s wellbeing.

I will now take questions.

Thank you. Before I go, some shout outs.

First, is for the Rock Project, which has helped to produce so many good musicians over the years and continues to nurture talent and encourage young people across the Island. When the schools closed, clubs had to stop too, but within a fortnight the team had set up lessons on Zoom, helping everyone involved to keep on rocking!

Encouraging creativity is also the subject of our second shout out today. Ricky, Callum and the team at Quine and Cubbon printers in Port St Mary have come in for praise from local residents after delivering Lockdown Drawing Pads free of charge to children in Port Erin and Port St Mary. 

Last but not least today, a special mention is being given to Housing Matters and everyone involved with Graih, particularly Erica Irwin and the staff there. The night shelter is invaluable for many vulnerable people and provides a safe, caring environment.

Thank you to everyone for tuning in.

Tomorrow the Minister for Enterprise will be here to update you on the work to support our businesses and workers.

All being well, I should be back on Wednesday with a focus on mental health.

Until then, please stay safe. Make the right decisions for you, for your families and for our Island.