Thank you for allowing me to make this brief statement.
This is my 6th statement to this Honourable court during the current emergency. I have variously made policy announcements, explained the direction of travel, and tried to provide members with the rationale behind the Council of Ministers’ decisions.
Today, Mr President, I would like to start by setting out the thinking of Council around the question of the Senior Race Day Bank Holiday. It was never our intention to remove a well-earned, and well deserved holiday from the people of the Isle of Man.
As I stated in my answer to the Urgent Question, for some time now, the Council of Ministers has wanted to align this holiday more closely to our Stay Safe approach. We wanted a moment that we could align to – hopefully - further societal freedoms and improvements in our economy. We wanted a day that people could enjoy.
By August, we would hope that the 1,900 people currently claiming for Manx Earnings Replacement Allowance will be back at work. And that businesses that have made 1,347 applications for the Salary Support Scheme and 3,700 for the Coronavirus Business Support Scheme would be back up and running.
Bank holidays make a significant contribution to our society. They give people the opportunity to spend time with family and friends.
This year, the opportunity to enjoy this important family time was made impossible for so many of us over Easter and this May weekend. We want to give that back, so let’s look forward to that opportunity in August.
This weekend marked Victory in Europe day. 75 years since the end of a conflict where too many people made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we had the freedoms we enjoy today.
The weather was glorious, the bunting was up and the icing was put on countless Victoria sandwich cakes across the Island. But our streets remained empty. People marked the occasion in the garden, online and through social media. We were together in spirit.
I was deeply moved by the bugler Matt Creer and piper Dr John Struthers performing at Snaefell. Thank you to them for this magical moment.
The Manx brass orchestra and youth orchestra produced a wonderful rendition of Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again, performed from their own homes.
I would like to extend a personal thanks to all those who contributed, and who marked the occasion. We will not let COVID-19 break our Manx spirit.
Last week was an important milestone for our Stay Safe plan. Honourable Members will recall our rich debate on our Roadmap document that details this approach.
Last week we reviewed and amended a number of our measures. The changes were modest but important. They included enabling some businesses to return. They included new advice to encourage vulnerable members of our community to take some exercise where they felt comfortable doing so. We did however agree that we were not ready to make a number of other changes.
The Council of Ministers currently meets three times a week. On Thursday this week we will again review our positon on household-to-household contact, the resumption of more retail businesses, the plan to start bringing back some important medical services that we have had to set aside during this pandemic. And more besides.
The Council of Ministers will consider these important areas on Thursday – with the most recent advice and data at hand. We will then make decisions. Manx decisions for our Manx circumstances.
For the avoidance of any doubt, I should repeat that we will only release measures if we judge the time is right. We will continue to be driven by data and evidence rather than by emotion. I of course hope that the number of active cases remains at the low level we see today. If we do see this worsen significantly, we are ready to delay any changes or – in extremis – reintroduce measures.
The Council of Ministers’ primary objective throughout this pandemic has been to preserve life. This remains absolutely the case. I know this has led to tough decisions – maybe the most challenging of all our political careers. And it has led to sacrifices.
However, with the support of this Honourable Court and with so many of us working to a common goal, I know we will right choices for our people, the correct decisions for our Island, and find our path to a new normal. Whatever that may be.
Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.
I know that Minister Ashford and Cath Quilliam, our Director of Nursing will be reflecting on this at the press conference after this sitting.
However, I would like to put on the record my admiration for the achievements and dedication of nurses and midwives across the world. And I am sure Honourable Members join me in this sentiment.
All of know of Florence Nightingale as a wartime nurse. How many of us know her as one of the world’s leading statisticians in the 1800’s?
It seems more fitting than ever to mark her contribution to nursing that in these days that are dominated by graphs, curves, and tests. And where the word “exponential” may well end up being – tragically – the word that many will remember from 2020.
Recently, I have spared Honourable Members my passion for quotations. But how could I not conclude my statement today without one from Florence Nightingale herself. Written so many years ago. But powerful words that resonate today.
"Live your life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift. There is nothing small in it. For the greatest things grow by God's Law out of the smallest.
But to live your life you must discipline it. You must not fritter it away in "fair purpose, erring act, inconstant will" but make your thoughts, your acts, all work to the same end and that end, not self but God. That is what we call character."
Thank you to our nurses and our midwives who do so much for our society in more normal times. And during these difficult and uncertain times have risen to sometimes daunting challenges. They stand between our Island community and this dreadful virus. We owe them every gratitude.