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Minister Ashford's Statement on COVID-19 - 24 April 2020

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Good afternoon 

I am joined today by Mr Ian Wright. Ian is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Noble’s Hospital. Welcome Ian, and thank you for coming, I really do appreciate your time. 

Using Ian’s usual job title there, you may wonder why I have invited an orthopaedic surgeon to join us here today. 

As I have explained on a number of occasions, many aspects of hospital and community health care have been reshaped as we respond to meet the challenges of COVID-19 and the demand it places on our services. 

One of these changes includes surgery, with only emergency procedures currently taking place. This not only means that we have fewer people in hospital recovering from surgery – people who would be in a weakened state, potentially vulnerable to the disease; but it also enables us to use the resources from our theatres to increase our intensive care capacity in terms of bed space and equipment. 

The benefits these changes bring in our ability to provide care at scale for people with COVID-19 is not solely about physical capacity, however. Of course the number of beds and ventilators we have available is crucially important. But our most precious resource in this battle is our people. 

Adapting and reconfiguring our services is allowing us to redeploy our people into new, vital roles.   

Ian is an example of this service reconfiguration. Instead of his normal duties undertaking major surgery replacing people’s joints and the like, Ian has instead been lending his skills in the field of modelling, to help us understand how COVID-19 might spread here in the Isle of Man.  

Taking Ian, as an example. Whilst not demonstrating his surgical skills and prowess with a scalpel at present, we are tapping in to Ian’s first class honours degree in mathematics, which included work on mathematical modelling. Ian also undertook a post-graduate diploma in Actuarial Science which involves applying rigorous mathematics to model matters of uncertainty. So we are very lucky to have someone with his qualifications as part of our modelling team.  

This work has been absolutely critical in shaping the response to COVID-19 on our Island. From helping the Council of Ministers to determine Government’s strategy – to on-the-ground planning at Noble’s Hospital on matters such as oxygen and personal protective equipment. 

Not a day goes by without talking about ‘the curve’ and so there is of course a great deal of interest in the modelling behind these graphs, given how important this sort of scenario planning has been in shaping the policy response in countries around the globe. 

That is why Ian has kindly agreed to come along today to explain more about our modelling. 

Before I continue, it is important for me to note that the adaptability people are showing is not unique to the field of health and social care. Right across the Isle of Man Government – as well as in so many parts of our community – people are rising to the challenge to help us fight this disease head on.  

Across the Isle of Man Government I can confirm that hundreds of public servants have been redeployed from their normal duties – staff from every government department.  

Public servants volunteering to change roles and go where they are needed, such as our learning and development trainers helping to staff our COVID 111 service; people normally based at the NSC transferring to support the housekeeping team at Noble’s Hospital; DOI workers assisting with hospital security; and our bus drivers supporting the Ambulance Service. 

And this does not include staff who have been redeployed within their existing teams or departments – for example, I know the Treasury and the Department for Enterprise have rearranged staffing internally to meet the surge in demand for the various schemes we have created to help businesses and individuals through this extremely challenging time. 

I cannot thank you enough – this is a real Team Isle of Man effort, and those efforts are bearing fruit. 

Before I invite Ian to share some insight on our modelling, I would like to update you on today’s figures: 

The first thing I need to tragically inform you is there has been a further death in our community and also a further death in hospital bringing the total of community deaths to 13, hospital deaths to 5 and the overall deaths to 18. 

A further two members of our island community have lost their life to this horrendous disease and left family and friends mourning the loss of their loved ones. Every death tears at the heart of our community and affects us all. We must all redouble our efforts and continue in our fight against this disease to ensure few families as possible lose their loved ones in this horrendous way. 

  • The total number of tests undertaken stands at 2751 
  • The total number of concluded tests stands at 2715 
  • The number of people awaiting results is 36 
  • The total number of cases testing positive is 308 that means there have been 1 new case since yesterday’s update 
  • The presumed recovered now stands at 230  

Before I hand over to Ian I want to address a point I notice has come up on social media about testing. Some have suggested the low results over the last few days mean that the island testing centre isn’t working correctly. That is not correct as explained last week the testing centre went through robust secondary testing and validation procedures before going live with tests being run both in Manchester and the Island to make sure that the results were the same. That validation proved completely successful. Also currently have test results coming back from Manchester in the batches we are reporting not all are purely on island processed results and they are also among the negatives seen over the last few days.

Thank you, Ian. I hope those of you watching and listening have gained some insight on our coronavirus modelling.   

It demonstrates the rigour that goes into our scenario planning here in the Isle of Man and shows how experiences in other jurisdictions are helping shape our response.

Turning now to the shout outs for Howards Heroes. 

Right on topic, going back to what I spoke about earlier in terms of redeployment - we’ve had a nomination for Emma Callow at the National Sports Centre. Emma has been instrumental in our efforts to arrange a number of the redeployments of public servants. Thank you Emma, your efforts really are appreciated. 

My second shout out is for Alex Irving. Alex is a third year medical student who is currently back home on the Island from university. Alex offered his time to Noble’s Hospital and is currently working as a volunteer on Ward 2. Alex has recently celebrated his 21st birthday, which he spent working in Ward 2. Thank you Alex and many happy returns. 

The thirdly – a request for a shout out for Ballasalla Medical Centre & Costain Pharmacy in Ballasalla. Like all of our medical centres and pharmacies, these two important community facilities are under a lot of pressure at the moment, but still maintain their friendly and professional service. 

Santander has donated 200 food care boxes for delivery to our community key workers. I know these have been very much appreciated and I have seen some of the brilliant responses from workers who have received them. Thank you Santander. 

Do please keep your nominations coming using the hashtag #HowardsHeroes on Twitter. It’s wonderful to be able to share and recognise just some of the remarkable things people across our community are doing in these difficult times.

Before concluding this briefing, I am conscious that today we have taken the next step in how we, as an Island community, are responding to coronavirus. 

A step, yes – but a baby one. I cannot emphasise enough how vital it is that you continue with the measures you have taken over the past few weeks. 

Your actions make all the difference. How each of us behaves is the true front line in the battle against this horrible disease. 

Keep your distance – stay at least 2 metres away from other people outside of your household whenever possible. 

If you can work at home, please do so. 

Do not mix with people outside of your household. 

If you are returning to work in construction or as a tradesperson, do so only where you can maintain a safe distance from your colleagues and customers – it is critical that close contact is avoided. 

Exercise and travel responsibly.  Maintaining your distance is vital, but so is common sense.  Now is probably not the time to try rollerblading for the first time.  We must avoid any unnecessary demand on our health and care services. 

And last but not least. Wherever possible, stay at home. It is the safest place. Your own front door is your greatest defence against coronavirus. 

Thank you.