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Minister Ashford's Statement on COVID-19 - 16 April 2020

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Good afternoon,  

Can I start by once again thanking all those in our community who are abiding by the rules and in doing so protecting all of us in the wider community.  

Let’s not forget: we are in the midst of a worldwide health emergency, we are still facing a global pandemic

Global pandemic. Those are alarming words - used routinely now, in the same breath, on a daily basis. But they are true words. 

Coronavirus remain an immediate threat to life and we must continue to do everything possible to keep ourselves and others safe.  

We do this by breaking the chain of infection through staying at home, observing social isolation rules, only making essential journeys and taking one period of exercise each day.  

As part of our continued response to the virus here in our island community the Lieutenant Governor yesterday signed a new proclamation extending the State of Emergency in the Isle of Man to the 15th May.

Onto today’s latest figures: 

The total number of tests undertaken to date are 2316, of those we have had back 2172 so have 144 outstanding. The total number of confirmed cases stands at 284, meaning there’s been 26 new cases today. Our presumed recovered stands at 154 leaving us with 126 active cases.

Since I last stood at this podium another two members of our community have lost their struggle against this dreadful disease. One of those who lost their heroic struggle against Covid19 was Brendan Maxwell. 

Brendan was a taxi driver on the Island for nearly 40 years all that knew and met him loved him and is wonderful warm personality. 

He will be remembered by his family as a wonderful husband and father to his four children and a much loved granddad to his two grandchildren and he will be deeply missed by all his family and friends  

The best way we can honour the memory of Brendan and all those who have lost their lives is to continue our fight as a united community against this disease and no matter how difficult it may be by continuing to follow the medical advice.

As our 21-day lockdown period is extended for another week until 23rd April, we pass a landmark of sorts. 

I should make it clear that all restrictions over the past three weeks remain in place. 

But it is a good moment to reflect on what’s been achieved across the board.  

Our health and care services have adapted, prepared and are coping brilliantly with the most extraordinary challenges. 

There has been remarkable public understanding of, and compliance with, the restrictions we have placed on individual freedom, on families, businesses and communities.  

Innovation, adaptation, flexibility, resilience: we have seen these qualities displayed every day, in myriad situations. We have all had to dig into our reserves of tolerance and patience. 

It is a very trying time. But to see such a huge collective effort being undertaken, in good spirit is so heartening. Thank you to everyone for being part of it.

We knew from the start this is a long game.  Tolerance and patience have rarely been such essential virtues for daily life.  

That is especially the case for returning residents. The first group of Manx residents, who were stranded in the UK or abroad when the borders closed, returned last night. 

There has been a great deal of interest in this process - which is understandable as we’ve never attempted anything quite like this before. 

I have made it clear there has to be and continue to be strict medically led guidelines around this. We have a strong, compassionate will to help our citizens come home, but that has to be guided by clinical advice and tempered by what is do-able logistically.  

That is why we cannot bring everyone home in one go. And why we need to do so in a clinically controlled way. 

We all look forward to a time when the borders will open and life gets back to normal. But let’s be clear about what that will take.  

Without mandatory quarantine in a controlled area for Isle of Man residents wishing to return home, the clinical body advising the Government cannot support the borders reopening. 

I will ask the Director of Public Health to explain why preventing infection spread at this stage is so important, and how a small number of people could cause a spike in cases which our health services will struggle to cope with.   

Returning residents have been provided with detailed information about their quarantine arrangements and we have tried to address a wide range of potential queries. 

Among these - can family and friends bring packages to me in the Comis hotel; and can take-away food be delivered? The answers to these questions is ‘no’ and this is to maintain the integrity of the quarantine period.  

I know that the measures we are taking bring with them anxiety, heart ache and pain. But the pathway for all returning residents is crystal clear, and there can be no exceptions if we are to ensure the safety of our community for both returning residents and the wider community. 

I will hand over now to our Director of Public Health Dr Henrietta Ewart who will say a few words about this project, before I take questions from the media. 

Henrietta – over to you.

I would like to finish today with a special mention for Howard’s Heroes. 

  • First shout-out goes to Sharon Sloane O’Keefe from Castletown Post Office. Her cheery nature and great sense of humour have been making a real difference to her customers and indeed her community.
  • It’s a similar story at Willaston Spar where the staff have been working extra shifts and hours to help the local community.

So I’d like to thank everyone working across our retail sector. 

  • Second tribute today to the Villa Marina Security Team who have been redeployed up at Noble’s Hospital – they’re helping ensure people are directed to the right place for their needs.

Zurich International has designed a wellbeing toolkit that is available on line at it’s a one stop shop with a wealth of information around physical health, personal resilience and mental health. 

I also know that Zurich has been working closely with many local charities to support them and has recently donated £30,000 to the Manx Solidarity Fund, so thank you Zurich.

And lastly, to the Manx Sewing for Safety group which formed two weeks ago from local crafter volunteers and have now made over 700 cloth laundry bags for healthcare workers to use for their personal clothes or shoes when they get to work and change into their uniform. They are also making scrubs for the community-based health teams.  

They are being helped by the team at University College of Isle of Man who are getting behind the project to make scrubs – in their very own Scrub Hub.

In closing, as today is Thursday don’t forget to make some noise for our healthcare workers doing such a fantastic job at 8pm this evening.

Thank you.