I think one of the most important things to focus on at the moment is the language about exit strategies and public expectations about what this means.
There’s a great deal of coverage in the UK in the last few days with the Prime Minister advising the public there that the UK has now passed its peak. There is also coverage that the UK Government will publish a comprehensive plan next week on getting the economy moving, getting children back into school, travelling to work and being safe in the workplace.
Thinking perhaps about a more helpful phrase or more accurate description for the medium term it is important for us all to accept that coronavirus is very likely to be with us for some time. It will not be a short-term issue. It is very likely to remain part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future and so, understandably, it will continue to impact how we live our lives.
It may seem perverse to talk about a ‘new normal’ – there’s nothing normal about a pandemic or the tragic loss of life we have seen to COVID-19. Indeed, this pandemic is something not seen since Spanish flu a century ago. The world, of course, is already a very different place now to what it was then. For the modern world, this is new and unchartered territory.
I by no means wish to paint a picture of doom and gloom. As we have seen, the Isle of Man Government has already begun taking small steps to modify the approach in tackling and living with coronavirus here on the Island – allowing certain sectors to return to work, and offering more flexibility in terms of recreation, which began a week ago today.
And those of you who have followed events this week will be aware of the work being undertaken to finalise the Government’s medium-term response to coronavirus. We in DHSC have been heavily involved and in particular in preparing how we continue to support COVID and bringing non-COVID services back on line. This document will be considered again at the Council of Ministers tomorrow and will be debated in Tynwald on Tuesday.
And we must not forget the remarkable achievement of all of you, the whole community in flattening the curve. As someone still relatively new to the Isle of Man, I can say that I have truly been bowled over by the community spirit and collective response of the Manx people in the fight against this disease. You should be very proud of the difference this has made.
Flattening the curve and maintaining this, has and will be about saving lives – reducing the number of cases at any one time so that our health and care services are not overloaded. We only have so many beds, so many nurses, so many carers, so many doctors, and only so many ventilators.
But just as crucial – and this is something the Chief Minister spoke about recently – flattening the curve has been about buying us time.
Time to build capacity and capability on the Island to be ready for coronavirus.
We have had to adapt quickly, working swiftly to transform how large parts of our health and care service operate.
Unprecedented - the word of the moment it seems – really does describe the scale of the change we have all had to put in place – whether personally as citizens or in my case, in terms of how we structure our Island’s health and social care system to cope with a pandemic.
Perhaps the most important concept to grasp then, is that coronavirus is not likely to be a linear process. Our bell curves illustrate a model, but the ups and downs of that all-important green line on our graph show the reality. Peaks and troughs.
There may be times where it is a case of two steps forward, one step back. You will have heard time and again, in these briefings, that everything is under constant review. And I assure you, that really is the case. We are constantly monitoring and reviewing.
The return to work of some sectors last Friday is an example of this. We are carefully monitoring the health and care implications for any resurgence in the virus. And I know that the Council of Ministers are clear that if needs be, we will move back a step, with stricter measures, to keep people safe. We support this approach in DHSC.
There is – not yet at least – no silver bullet to tackle coronavirus. No vaccine, no current reliable antibody test. Our society is adapting and will continue to do so over the coming weeks and months.
Turning to the data we have flattened the curve, but we cannot be complacent. You’ll have seen after a few days of no new cases, that we have had a handful in the past few days. Coronavirus is still here in the Isle of Man. We cannot let down our guard. Social distancing and hand hygiene are key for those who are well. Dialling 111 and seeking advice is key for those with symptoms.
In terms of age span, the biggest grouping of cases is still those aged between 20 and 64. In some ways, this is encouraging as we want to shield older people from the disease.
There is a relatively 50/50 split in cases between men and women on the Island. 57% of cases are female, 43% male.
In terms of the spread of COVID-19 on the Island, through our contract tracing process we estimate that 48% of cases have come from close contact with other people. The majority are likely to be transmission between people in the same household. But this does emphasise the crucial importance of social distancing when outside of our homes.
15% of cases are related to travel and 37% of cases we estimate to have been picked up in the community – people going about their daily lives.
Another interesting statistic is that we’ve seen a real decrease in attendances to the Emergency Department at Noble’s Hospital. Brining in a temporary Island-wide speed limit and that stay at home message has really helped to relieve pressure on our emergency care team. However, I must stress the importance to everyone to continue to seek treatment for serious conditions. We are here for you and the whole team - GPs, dentists, MEDS, social care, community teams, mental health and Noble’s will continue to working incredibly hard to support you.