I wanted to give the Health & Social Care Minister a break from today’s briefing. He is doing the rest of the briefings this week with either me or other colleagues. I am sure he will be watching and checking how we do.
I am however delighted to have the Dr Alex Allinson, Minister of Education, Sport & Culture, and Mrs Chrissy Callaghan who is a Schools Improvement Officer who will update us about nurseries and childminders.
First of all today’s numbers:
- The total number of tests undertaken is 5,282
- We have had 5,252 tests returned
- Which means there are 30 outstanding
- There have been 336 confirmed cases
- There are no new cases today. Meaning that we are now on day nineteen of no new cases
- We have no active cases
We continue to have excellent results. And I am grateful to you all for this. It has been a team effort. Please take a moment to realise the significance of what we have achieved as an Island.
The Council of Ministers met this morning. I have three issues that arose from that meeting to update you on. And I will like to look ahead briefly to the Council of Ministers meeting on Thursday.
Before I do so, I would like to hand over to the Minister of Education, Sports & Culture for an update.
Thank you Alex. As I said in Tynwald last week, there is a tough balance to get right here. I know that some parents are frustrated that their children may not be able to go back full time and straight away after half term. I understand that. The Department and our head teachers are working hard to provide as much as possible as soon as possible.
Equally, there are parents who are not ready to send their children back. I understand that also. This is why we have made attendance optional until the next school year.
Turning to other issues, there were two decisions at this morning’s Council of Ministers that I would like to share with you.
First, regarding compassionate travel. While the border remains closed, as you will know we have sought to help those people with genuine and urgent compassionate cases make the journeys they need.
Today, we agreed that we would broaden the guidance on the types of compassionate reasons that we can consider. The period of fourteen days quarantine will remain in place. And prior permission will have to be obtained.
People have of course never been prevented from leaving the Island. It has been the return that we have had to regulate in order to prevent anyone unwillingly bringing the virus back with them.
From 11 June, we will slightly change the categories to allow Manx residents to travel and return for overriding personal, family or health requirements. This could now for example include child visitation, support for an unwell parent etc.
We will also consider applications from non-Manx residents to travel to the Island in order to provide support for elderly, frail or otherwise vulnerable residents. This would also cover anyone who needs to travel to the Island to deal with the estates of deceased Manx family members.
Please let me repeat, exemptions in any of these categories will require prior clearance from the Cabinet Office repatriation team. And the fourteen day quarantine period will remain on return.
The second thing from the Council of Ministers meeting about which I would like to brief you is the discussion we had about our plan to bring an end to the Emergency Period.
In Tynwald on Friday, I told members that as we emerge out of the health emergency, we also need to emerge out of the emergency powers we currently have in place.
The powers were brought in for a reason. As government, we needed the ability to move quickly and decisively to deal with the threat of the virus.
But like so much relating to COVID, exiting from the emergency is far more complex that getting into it.
We want to get to a place as soon as possible where we can ask the Lieutenant Governor to lift the emergency. But when he does, all the powers in place will fall. While we are ready for some to fall, others remain important to keep our people safe. If the emergency period ended tomorrow, we would for example lose the ability to maintain our borders closed and to require people to quarantine when they return.
We have come up with a way to put some of the powers we need to maintain into existing legislation. Others we will put into temporary regulations that will allow those powers we do need for a little longer but should not need in the long term.
We will be working with all members of Tynwald on this plan ahead of a proper debate next week. If members agree, we will be able to invite the Lieutenant Governor to lift the emergency. He may need to extend the state of emergency a little longer while we put this important plan in place.
Exiting the emergency period as soon as possible is the right thing to do. But we need to make sure we retain the ability to continue to protect our Island and if necessary to deal with any future outbreaks.
And thirdly, a point of clarification on churches and other places of worship. The Council of Ministers has agreed some time ago that we would no longer dictate how they went about their business. It is for each religious institution to decide for themselves when and how they open.
Just before I take questions, I would like to take a quick look at the week ahead. This is all of course subject to change.
The next briefing will be on Wednesday where the Minister of Health & Social Care will take questions directly from the public. These are proving to be very popular. The Education Minister did one last week. If you are interested in taking part in this, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will be back on Thursday with the Health & Social Care Minister to brief you on the outcome of the Council of Ministers meeting. I hope to be able to bring you an update on the changes that will happen on 15th June – including the reset of our social distancing guidance.
Friday will see the Health Minister back in the hot seat supported by Kathryn Magson, the Chief Executive of the Department of Health & Social Care.
I will now take questions.
Thank you. Two shout outs today.
First, following national volunteering week, this weekend saw National Specials Weekend marked by Police forces across the UK, paying tribute to the Special Constables who give up their own free time to volunteer as police officers.
The Isle of Man is lucky to have a dedicated team of Special Constables who I know give huge amounts of their time each year helping our Constabulary and keeping our community safe. Their contribution has been particularly valued over the past few months. Thank you.
The second is for the Big Manx Community Project who have put together a wonderful tribute to the amazing strength of our Island community during COVID-19. It is called 'Howard's Heroes' and is set to the tune of the Laxey Wheel song, Well done to everyone involved in producing this and for the money raised for worthy causes. We will play the video at the end of this briefing, so do stick around and watch it.
So thanks to the Big Manx Community Project. And thanks to all of you for getting us to where we are. You are amazing.
Keep on making the right decisions for you and your loved ones. It is not over yet. But we are getting there.
Have a great week. And please stay safe.