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Minister Allinson's Statement on COVID-19 - 2 May 2020

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Good afternoon,

Before we get onto the press conference, I would like to update you on today’s statistics.  

The total tests undertaken is 3,287. That means we have done 93 tests since the last update.  

The tests concluded is 3,242. This means that there are 45 people waiting for results.  

We have 4 new confirmed cases since the last update.  

This brings the total confirmed cases to 320.  

I am pleased to be able to confirm that there have been no new COVID related deaths.

Six weeks ago we had to make the difficult decision to close our schools in response to the coronavirus threat to our island. 

Since then some primary school hubs and all the secondary schools have remained open to vulnerable children and those of key workers. 

The current tight restrictions to save lives and save our NHS have also affected nurseries, playgroups and child-minders. 

All the teachers, and those that work in our units for those children with additional needs, the caretakers, cleaners, catering staff, nursery staff and child-minders have done a wonderful job of looking after the children in their care and working with each other. 

This creativity and flexibility during a very anxious and worrying time for our community has shown our island at its best. 

And we have needed to balance the cost of the lockdown against the importance of saving lives.  

Teachers have been working tirelessly to ensure that pupils’ education and long term aspirations are not another victim of COVID-19. 

The schools that have remained open have used physical distancing measures and imaginative teaching methods to keep staff and children safe. 

The existing online resources have been strengthened and expanded with remote learning and support provided by teachers for those children stuck at home. 

The Department has worked closely with all teachers and their representatives to get us this far, and are planning together for how we can allow more children to come back to school but only if and when it is safe to do so. I would like to thank all of the unions involved for their positive engagement.  

Rather than me talk to you, I would like to introduce just two of the many wonderful education staff we have on the island who are keeping the hopes and dreams of our children alive during this dark time. 

Mr Robert Coole is head teacher at Anagh Coar Primary School and has been supporting the Douglas hubs. I’d also like to introduce Mrs Rachel Smith who is a teacher and digital leader at St Ninians High School. 

Mr Coole, would you like to tell us how things have been for you and your colleagues over the last six weeks?

Thank you for your honesty and insight. I’d now like to invite Mrs Smith to tell us a bit about online learning and how this has developed during the health emergency.

Thank you Mrs Smith. I would like to thank both of you and all your colleagues for the time and dedication you have shown in supporting our community. 

Although some teachers may be working from home, they are working incredibly hard. Although most exams may have been cancelled there is a huge amount of work to be done on predicted grades and course work to ensure students get the grades they deserve. The Department have been working closely with teachers and their unions throughout this difficult time to support the staff who support our children. 

Over Easter, teachers volunteered to keep the schools open for vulnerable children and those of key workers. They have volunteered again over the two May Bank Holidays. 

After listening to the professional associations, senior leaders and officers, the Department has decided to close our schools as previously planned for the full TT fortnight. This recognises the need of teachers, support and administrative staff for a decent break after a period of intense and demanding work. It also allows our children to try and get back to a more normal routine. 

I’d now like to turn to some of the excellent work going on to keep our culture alive and vibrant during a time of social isolation. The Arts Council have launched a project called 'Home is where the Art is'.  

Each day a new video will be added to their website of artists, musicians and poets expressing how they are using new ways to express themselves. 

Principal trumpeter Jason Evans was the first to show how despite being alone, music can connect all of us. His rendition of Ellan Vannin is amazing and reduced me to tears. 

So today I have talked about education and our culture. I would now like to turn to sport. 

Throughout the restrictions we have been working with sports people and their organisations to try and allow some resumption of activities. The first online sports awards was a huge success but we need to do more. 

Through close liaison with Public Health and organisers of recreational sport we have been able to risk assess various activities and decide which can restart in a restricted format to ensure safety. 

Yesterday the Chief Minister announced that recreational fishing could restart this weekend. 

Today I am happy to announce that from Monday golf courses can reopen to single players or pairs of players from the same household. 

Clubs have shared ideas and examples from around the world of how the sport can be played in a safe and controlled way for all involved. This is the type of engagement we will increasingly need as we progress.  At the end of the day, it will be government and our clinical leaders who will make decisions on measures to protect us all. But it is people in different sectors and industries who know how we can move towards in a safe way for our people.  

Over the coming weeks we will continue to work with those involved with watersports, athletics, crown bowls, tennis, shooting and archery to see how we can work together to bring these sports back safely. 

We understand the value of education, sport and culture to our island and to our people. We know that it is important for people’s well-being. 

Throughout this health emergency we will work with teachers, unions, sports men and women and our musicians and artists to find a way out of the present restrictions. 

But we will do so in phased steps, on the best medical advice, and always when it is safe to do so. The Council of Ministers has said on a number of occasions that they will not hesitate to bring measures – if necessary - back to preserve life.  

Thank you for your time today and now I would like to turn to the press for any questions they have.

I would like to thank you for all you questions and thank again Mr Coole and Mrs Smith for their time today and for letting us learn how challenging it can be to teach. 

I have three shout-outs for local heroes.  

First, we’ve had three nominations from our educators for the Government Technology Service. Here are some comments: 'The team at GTS have got the Island's teachers and our pupils all up and running with online learning, as well as handling all the teething problems with such patience. Thank you!'

Another one reads: 'It has taken a huge effort to get our children's remote learning up and running - Janette has been my hero for the last month! Working long hours to get us set up and answer all our enquiries. 

And thirdly: 'Everyone I spoke to at GTS - especially Adam! - were legends'. 

Initiating online learning at scale has been a mammoth undertaking, for our teaching professionals and for our technology team.  But both have done an outstanding job to ensure that, even in these uncertain times, our children can continue with their education from their own homes.  Thank you. 

Secondly, across our island this emergency has shown the strength and generosity of our people and communities. 

A new initiative has just been launched to support the Manx Solidarity Fund and Isle of Man foodbank. 

The 'Give a coffee #Yessir' campaign asks people to donate money which they would normally be spending on coffee. 

It is kindly supported by the coffee shops of the Isle of Man including the big franchised brands and every pound donated during May at will be match funded, up to a total of £25,000 by the Z Zurich Foundation, a private foundation, funded by the Zurich Insurance Group. 

And last but not least, the final shout-out is a very special one.  Elizabeth Kissack at Castle View Nursing Home in Peel is today celebrating her 104th birthday!  Elizabeth is celebrating at Castle View with her friends and the staff.  I hope you have a wonderful day Elizabeth and the Chief Minister has asked me to pass on his very best wishes and many happy returns.

I would like to thank you all for your time today. Things are getting better and we are gradually being able to come through this together. 

This virus still exists in our community and is likely to for some time yet.  

So this weekend please stay safe. Stay at home if you can. If you do go out, please respect social-distancing.  

Make the right decisions for you, your family and our Island.  

Thank you.