Skip to main content

Minister Ashford's Statement on COVID-19 - 20 April 2020

Return To News releases & statements


First of all, I’d like to say a thank you. When I spoke last week, I asked you to stay inside once again – and you did. I asked you to continue to social distance – and you did. I asked you to only shop infrequently for necessary supplies – and you did.

Once again we have shown our strength as a community. I would also like to thank the Isle of Man sports stars for contributing to the social media video that we published on Saturday.

Now to today’s latest case and testing figures: 

To start I regret to have to announce that I have just been informed of three further deaths in the community setting which now brings our total deaths to 9.  We have lost three more to this dreadful virus and I can barely begin to imagine the heartache their families and loved ones are experiencing at this time.  My condolences go to them all.

The total number of tests undertaken to date now stands at 2509 of which we have had 2417 back leaving 92 outstanding.

The total number of confirmed cases stands at 300 with 200 presumed recovered leaving 91 active cases.

The total of new positive cases so far today stands at 2.

2020 was designated as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organisation in honour of the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.

And although, when we launched it, we were not aware of the global pandemic that would change our lives, nurses have shown why they deserved this international recognition.

It is certainly proving to be a year our nurses will never forget. Not as we would have wished it and not quite as planned..

They have been challenged as never before – and are giving their utmost. Recognition of the crucial role nurses play in our society is – among so much detriment and despite the circumstances – truly, a positive and welcome gain.

Our third year students are finishing their training with hands-on nursing and have been helping at our Coronavirus testing centre at the Grandstand. 

At short notice nursing and care staff have provided support at one of our residential homes and they continue to be very flexible, provide support and care where they’re most needed.

I have previously said that we would be doing our own testing for coronavirus from today. I am pleased to say that on-Island testing commenced earlier today, as planned. 

Having capability to test samples on-Island is great news, as it gives us capacity to run tests as and when we require, and to gain results within a shorter time frame than has been the case until now. 

I know there’s a lot of interest in the on-Island testing, so I’d like to offer some further insight into how this came about:

  • The equipment coming online today is a Real Time PCR analyser (ABI 7500) of exactly the same standard as used by Public Health England

PCR stands forpolymerase chain reaction and is a laboratory technique. PCR testing finds small amounts of DNA in a sample, using a process known as amplification, to create a sample that can be used for analysis and detection – in this case for coronavirus

  • This sort of equipment would normally never be found in a general hospital, but the journey to this point has been quite eventful
  • Began in early March when molecular scientist Dr Rachel Glover from Taxa Genomics reached out to ask if we could collaborate on a local solution
  • Working with our own senior scientist Chris Helm, they identified a piece of kit at the Public Analyst’s Lab that hadn’t been used for a few years but was perfect for our needs
  • They installed it in Noble’s and have been working 7 day weeks to recommission it and work up an in-house method
  • There have been challenges along the way including essential parts needed (remember the helicopter delivery) + finding a way to automate the process and sourcing of reagents
  • For the last two weeks they’ve been running samples in parallel with PE Manchester and have now validated our method
  • The first run of samples went in this morning at 0830 – it’s a six hour process. Another run will be started later this afternoon
  • It can turn results around within 24 hours compared to 48-72 hours at the moment

To be able to test for coronavirus on the Island has been our long-term plan since we started our battle against this dreadful virus. It marks a step change from this point forward in how we will be fighting back against COVID-19 in the future.

Our ambitions around testing come from our approach to slowing the spread of the virus in our community.

Our premise has always been to test, trace, inform.  The virus spreads from person to person and while someone may not have the symptoms they could inadvertently be spreading COVID-19 completely unintentionally.

With robust testing and contact tracing we can and have advise people to self isolate more quickly and thereby slow the spread.

Our ability to do this on Island will now revolutionise the way we operate and makes us masters of our testing destiny.

As I said, we expect the results to be turned around in 24 hours and, using text messaging, to be able to inform people of their results in real time.

Thank you again for your work as an Island, as a community, to slow the spread of the virus, to flatten that curve, and protect our health and social care service from being overwhelmed.

Finally – today’s shout outs.

Shout out for Bob Corkish: a resident at Southlands our residential home in Port Erin.

Bob Corkish is doing his own Captain Tom Moore effort and is walking laps of the Court Yard there, this has been organised by him and his daughter Angie Aire – well known for her fundraising and campaign work for breast cancer research.

I believe he has raised £6000 already! 

Bob wants the money to go to the Friends of Nobles Hospital.

He is being supported by staff at Southlands in the challenge, and is heading to be a media star soon!

Thank you Bob for this tremendous effort.

Also another very special shout out. I saw a news story the other day about a lady who today is celebrating her birthday but in self isolation. Not unusual you may say many of us have celebrated birthdays at home or in self isolation. But this is a birthday with a difference as this lady is turning 100. So an massive heartfelt shout out to Kathleen Jenkins on her amazing milestone of reaching 100. I just wish you could have been celebrating it in different circumstances. So from all of us Kathleen happy birthday.