Thank you for allowing me to make a statement today on the situation relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I will endeavour to be brief today. Some may say uncharacteristically. I think that much of what is pertinent today we can adequately cover in the next piece of business on the Order paper – namely the motion relating to the Government’s medium term response to COVID-19. I think that this document addresses many of the areas on which Honourable Members engaged over recent weeks. And I look forward to a constructive and lively debate.
I would however like to say a word about two areas that you may not determine fall within the scope of the next item of business but that I believe are pertinent to our current situation and worthy of mention.
- The current situation on our Island
- the situation in the United Kingdom and
- Our programme to repatriate our residents
The situation on our Island still gives us cause for cautious optimism. As I reported to this Honourable Court last week, our health system remains in good shape in terms of capacity across all our wards – especially intensive care – in terms of staffing, in terms of the stocks of personal protection equipment and in terms of other key supplies. I reported to you about our oxygen generating equipment and am proud to be able to report that has been commissioned and is delivering to the required specification.
It has now been almost two weeks since we amended the measures in place. We allowed the resumption of work in construction and related trades where it was safe to do so. And we allowed our residents to take a little more responsibility for their actions.
To date, we have not seen a resurgence of confirmed cases. We have not seen the bounce that we might have and that others have seen. Yes we have had cases. But thanks to contact tracing, we have a good understanding of the movement of the virus. And there is no evidence that any of the recent cases are linked to the changes in the measures.
We have often discussed the situation across in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has said that he believes the United Kingdom has passed its peak. And that the risk to the health service there becoming overwhelmed has also passed.
We of course very much hope that this is indeed the case. The Prime Minister has also indicated that this week he will unveil plans for a gradual lifting of measures there – his own roadmap. As we have been developing our own roadmap – that we will be debating today – we have been keenly following developments across the water. While of course we will make Manx decisions for our Manx situation. But as I have said before that given the substantial number of people who regularly travel between the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man, that the situation across has direct consequences to us. We wish them well as they move to the next stage in their own plan. And we will continue to watch carefully.
This does lead me to my final point. Our programme to repatriate our residents.
This has been the most challenging issue among a raft of challenging issues. As I told the Public Accounts Committee, the Council of Ministers, following a review of the situation by our clinicians, has agreed in principle that we should move to a system that relies on quarantine at home rather than at the Comis Hotel. This will come with a range of stringent conditions. Officers are working through this to ensure that the regulations and protocols are robust and – most importantly – meet our test of ensuring that the return of our residents continues to pose no additional risk to our Island community.
We will make announcements when we are confident that this is all in place. We must get this right not rushed. We will give members of this Honourable Court as much notice and detail as possible.
Before I finish, I would like to put on the record my thanks to those returning residents who have been through the quarantine process. I know that it may not have been easy. And it was certainly not what they wanted after what for some were challenging experiences before.
But I believe that what we did was the right decision at that time – to protect our community.
I look forward to a substantive debate as we together consider the Government’s roadmap document as our next item of business.
In the meantime, I would again like to thank Members of this Honourable Court for their engagement and their labours in the best interests of democracy and our Island.