Thank you for joining us on Day One of our circuit break lockdown. I would like to focus today on our vaccination programme.
When I spoke withyou at the start of this week, I talked about the priorities of the Council of Ministers when we were making decisions.
Clearly, the number one priority is the protection of human life – the lives of our people. This is front and centre in all of our decision-making. It was when we locked down last time - and it is again this time.
Last time it was difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel. This time, there is an important difference. We have two vaccines that have been approved by regulators and to which we have access here on our Island.
The roll out of the vaccine has to now be our national priority. We will do everything in our power to ensure that this happens as quickly and effectively as possible.
In a second, I will hand over to the Minister for Health & Social Care who will take us through in detail the plan for roll out of the vaccine and the current state of play. The Minister will also update us on today’s testing figures.
But just before he does, I do have to touch on some important points.
This is not simply a matter of lining people up and sticking a needle in their arm. There are some real challenges relating to storing, handling and deploying the current vaccine. Some of these are logistical. But there are also regulatory and legal issues that are important. We need to get the balance absolutely right.
The categories for our vaccine roll out are published on our website. We of course all want this to go as speedily as possible to protect as many people as possible.
There is a plan for roll out based on some clearly defined categories. This plan was based on solid clinical advice. And we believe this is the right approach.
Let me hand over to the Minister to take you through some of this.
Thank you, David. It is great to hear the progress so far and that we are ready for the next steps. And thank you to everyone working so hard on the vaccination programme.
As you heard from the Minister, there have been a large number of tests. I would like to pass on my thanks to the swabbing team and colleagues in the lab who have made this possible.
It is encouraging to see that apart from a single day one test –which given the infection rate in the UK is to be expected – we have seen no additional positives at this stage.
I do want to mention that we had some feedback that people would like us to present the test results in a way that more clearly separates results of the recent clusters from the more everyday testing. We agree and are working on that now.
While the results today are good news, I do need to underline the fact that this is only the start of a period of uncertainty while we continue contact tracing and undertake more testing to see the extent of any community spread. There is some way to go yet before we have a complete picture.
At this point, I would like to hand over to our Director of Public Health for an update on this. Dr Ewart.
Thank you, Henrietta. I know that the team has been working around the clock on this so please pass on my thanks.
And again, thank you to everyone who has come forward following our appeals over recent days. This is making a real difference.
On the subject of making a difference, I would like to say something about our food retailers. They have yet again gone above and beyond to support our island at this difficult time. Anumber of retailers now have in place either dedicated shopping hours or are giving priority access for the Island’s elderly and for those who are supporting the most vulnerable.
I would ask everyone to support this. If you see elderly and vulnerable members of our community – and those shopping for them – please allow them access to the front of the queues.
If you see anyone wearing a Hi-Vis vest with 'DHSC Support Worker' on, they are helping the most vulnerable of our society at this time. By allowing them access to the front of the queue you will be helping a number of families who are unable to leave their homes during this lockdown.
I mentioned yesterday the importance that our incredible community spirit will play in this new chapter. It is more important than ever to stay connected and look out for one another.
Words like 'lockdown' and 'isolation' can make usfeel that we are on our own. But we are not.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling – then there are a lot of services out there that are still very much open for business. Our charitable sector was so important last spring and is again ready to help. And most Government run services are still available.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch. Some might be run differently or no longer face-to-face. But video or phone options are often available and the help is still there. This very much includes Emergency Department and our mental health services.
As we go through this circuit break period, please check in with neighbours, friends and family. Ask them 'Are you OK?'. Those simple three words – knowing that someone is out there – can make a big difference to the way theyare feeling.
Whilst this is a difficult time – it is another chance for us to show how strong our community is on this Island.
There are a range of resources out there. You can start at the Are you OK? website areyouok.gov.im. You will also find there contact details for our partners at Kooth and Qwell. Both offer online mental health and wellbeing support, for children and adults. They can provide a safe place to discuss how youare feeling.
Before I pause andtake questions from the media, I want to pick up some queries we’ve received from the public.
We have asked parents to keep their children at home wherever possible, and asked nurseries, playgroups and childminders to remain open only for those children who are designated as ‘vulnerable’ or who are children of ‘essential workers’.
A list of nurseries, playgroups and childminders who have remained open and have places available can be found on the Registration and Inspection Unit section of gov.im. This will be updated on a daily basis.
On our civic amenity sites, although these have not been directed by Government to close, the relevant authorities have taken the decision to do so. This is so that appropriate measures to protect the public and their staffcan be put in place.
Governmentis working with the Civic Amenity Sites so that they can re-open as soon as possible.
The Eastern and Western Civic Amenity sites will re-open on the 15 January. The Northern Civic Amenity site is looking to open on 20 January, reintroducing its booking system.
Government is working with the Southern Civic Amenity Site to reinstatethe one way road closure order which was in place last year and it is hoped that this will assist that site in being able to reopen.
It is important to note that the Island’s Bring Bank network is still fully operational and you can take glass, cans and paper to these sites where they will be collected as normal.
Finally, a reminder than dentists have not been mandated to close, although it is of course a matter for individual practices whether they operate or not. If you have an appointment over the next three weeks, please check with your dentist.
And now to the media – and just to let you know that the Education Minister is here should you have any questions in that regard.
Thank you for those questions.
Tomorrow I hope to be joined by the Treasury Minister who will give you an update on work to support our businesses and our economy through this circuit break lockdown.
Until then, thank you again for joining us. And thank you for everything you are doing.
Please remember the basics.
- Stay at home as much as you possibly can
- If you do need to go out then wear a face covering as much as you possibly can
- If you have any symptoms then stay at home and call 111 as soon as you possibly can.
Make the right decisions to keep you, your family and your Island safe. To protect what we have achieved – and this time to protect our vaccination programme.
Stay safe. Be responsible and whenever you can please stay at home.