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Chief Minister's statement on COVID-19 - 6 May 2020

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Good afternoon everyone.

As well as a regular appearance from the Health & Social Care Minister, I am delighted to welcome back to the media briefing our Head of Mental Health - Ross Bailey. He will give a presentation on the work of his team shortly.

Before our discussion on mental health, I would like to invite the Health & Social Care Minister to bring you the latest update. I know that David would also like to address an issue on how we present our statistics. David.

I hope people have had a chance to read the document we published on Monday. It sets out our approach to the next phase of our Covid-19 response.

It is, if you like, our flight path for the Medium Term: we are on the runway, with a clear trajectory. To extend the flight metaphor, we will give you our co-ordinates – our specific next steps – in the briefing tomorrow.

Our approach is built upon four key policy principles:

  • protecting life;
  • maintaining our critical national infrastructure;
  • ensuring public safety, confidence and welfare;
  • supporting a controlled return to normality, balancing social, economic and health impacts.

You can see that the health and wellbeing of our people are critical to three of those four key principles.

Easing restrictions to get the economy going again is clearly important. But it won’t happen without reference to other, equally important factors. This is what the Council of Ministers has committed to.

While the restrictions have - without doubt - saved lives. They have also - without doubt - had a detrimental impact on some people’s mental health and wellbeing. This is something that is personally very important to me.

It is essential that decisions on the next steps - on maintaining or easing restrictions - take into account the wider health of the population.

So our theme today is mental health.

We recognise that there has to be a balance. A balance between restrictions to supress the virus and to save lives, and the community’s longer-term physical and mental health.

So we continue to carefully weigh the harm coronavirus can cause to the community with the harm a prolonged lockdown could cause.

It is natural that people will experience increased anxiety – whether from having to stay at home for a prolonged period, or from fear of the virus itself. And as I said in Tynwald yesterday, I know that as long as the future remains uncertain, this also can cause anxiety.

There are financial pressures for many. The worry about being able to provide for one’s family I know can cause real stress.

And we have seen an increased number of calls reporting domestic abuse.

Lockdown has not been easy on our mental health. It affects our mood, our thoughts, our fears, our confidence, our hopes for the future.

We must ensure the balance is right. Allowing people more choice in how to live our lives means people can begin to build the thing that everyone – including me – is calling the “new normal’.

This phase that we are in now - Stay Safe – opens new possibilities. But this will always be based on being able to do so safely. It is about people respecting rules and making the right decisions.

That means stay at home as much as possible – there is more scope to leave the house, but home remains the safest place to be.

Social distancing still applies! That means you should remain 2 metres apart from other people, apart from those you live with.

With more trips out of the house now allowed, maintaining social distance from others will be harder AND more important. It will require greater effort and vigilance.

It is so important that we do not drop our guard. We have achieved so much. The last thing that any of us want to see is any spike in the spread of the virus that means we need to re-impose restrictions.

The message from the clinicians is clear: we can go back to some kind of normality if we maintain social distancing.

Otherwise we will be switching in and out of emergency measures for a very long time.

You, the public have shown enormous tolerance so far in sticking to the rules and helping supress the curve. Thank you.

The power to continue making progress remains in your hands.

During the lockdown our mental health operations have been under immense pressure, as elsewhere.

Ever since I was Health & Social Care Minister I have taken a keen interest in mental health issues.

I know that waiting lists for professional intervention, especially for young people, have been a concern. I know that people’s needs have at times exceeded our ability to deliver, in recent times.

Technological innovations such as online counselling have gone some way to meeting demand. We keep in close touch with developments elsewhere, and learn from them, taking on board those that meet our needs.

At some time in all our lives it is likely we or one of those we love will suffer a mental illness. And with these uncertain times, I know that we need to be especially resourceful and make sure we have the support and advice in place for those who most need it.

It is such an important area. I would like to hand over to Ross Bailey, our Head of Mental Health Operations for an update on the work underway across our community.

Thank you so much Ross. It is great to hear how you and your colleagues are adapting to the situation and rising to the challenges this pandemic has presented. I am also heartened to hear how this has been a truly One Team approach. Thank you. And please pass on my thanks to your colleagues.

I will now move to questions.

Before we go, I do have some Shout-outs:

The first shout out today is for Stuart Colligon. Stuart wrote to me to give his views on the way the coronavirus pandemic has been handled by the Manx government.

He wants to give back and has made a very generous personal donation (£10k TBC) to the Department of Health and Social Care. Stuart simply asked that it be spent on something ‘that would make a difference.’

Stuart is the founder of consultancy firm Auxesia (PRON: ork-say-zee-yah) which has in happier times provided sponsorship for community events, clubs, charities and talented individuals.

This personal donation from Stuart will fund a new Tele-dermatology service.

This is a system where images are sent directly from GPs to Dermatologists. It will allow for a virtual diagnosis and a more streamlined treatment pathway for all patients, but in particular those with high risk skin cancers.

Images of the lesions are taken by dermatascopes (PRON: der-mat-o-scopes) and iPads are used to give macro images. The details are then sent by secure email between clinicians. There are similarities with other forms of tele medicine, but this will be a new development for the Isle of Man.

The implementation of tele-dermatology will enable advanced triage, prioritisation of patients and telephone consultations during the current pandemic and into the future.

The cost of the equipment and set-up is £9,930 – Stuart Colligon, on behalf of Government, thank you very much indeed.

The second shout-out goes to Nicola Howard, a mental health nurse, who worked at the Grandstand and is now on the team at Abbotswood.

Nicola is also the Secretary of Laxey Miner Birds WI and in what spare time she has, is still working hard for them too providing community support.

It is good to know we have people like you Nicola, thank you for everything you are doing.

The third shout out goes to our Staff Welfare Team. They are running an Emotional Support Line for DHSC staff during the Covid-19 crisis

Staff who feel frazzled or overwhelmed can pick up the phone and talk things through with someone who understands, and will listen.

The team can offer practical advice on ways to maintain resilience and enhance the coping strategies that staff already have.

Calls are answered 7 days a week from 8am until 6pm

So thank you to the staff welfare team for helping to support our NHS Heroes at this challenging time.

That’s it for today, thanks to David and Ross for taking part, and to the media for their questions.

Please continue to socially distance, stay at home if possible, self-isolate if you are told to, wash your hands for 20 seconds throughout the day. Please make the right decisions for you, for your family and for our Island. And Stay Safe.