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Minister Ashford's statement on COVID-19 - 26 January 2021

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Good afternoon everyone,

The Chief Minister is attending to other duties this afternoon so today alongside myself I am joined at the podium by the Minister for the Department of Education Sport and Culture Dr Allinson and also via zoom by the Director of Public Health Dr Henrietta Ewart.

Before moving onto anything else I will provide you with todays figures.

I would now like to hand over to the Director of Public Health Dr Ewart for a brief update on the current situation.

Thank you Dr Ewart.

As Dr Ewart has just said today marks the milestone of having reached 14 days without any identified community spread. Saturday saw the first phase of our transition back to normal with a staged relaxation of the measures we put in place for our circuit breaker lockdown a few weeks ago. I would like to thank all of you out there for sticking to the rules and we ask you to please do so for the remainder of the week to help us move forward to what we hope will be a removal of all restrictions next week if we continue on our current trajectory.

On that note I will hand over the Dr Allinson who I know is keen to update you on the return of schools. Over to you Alex.

Thank you for that update Alex. Can I take the opportunity to add my thanks to all of those within the Education system for all that they have done over the last few weeks. The way everyone has pulled together to ensure that our education system can continue to run and offer support to our pupils to ensure they have missed out on as little education as possible has been phenomenal. Also a big thank you to all those parents out there who have had children at home for the last few weeks, for supporting their learning alongside the pressures and strains of working from home.

We fully recognise that this circuit breaker lockdown has been hard for many and may have caused anxiety, stress, concern and feelings of isolation, particularly for those who may already struggle with their mental health. That is one of the reasons why we as a government have been determined that this circuit breaker lockdown should be as short as it is safe as possible to be. It has been hard for people once again to have to be separated from their support networks be that family, friends or simply the break to the normal routine with which they would live their lives. After what we’ve been through it is OK to feel differently, and as we prepare to welcome back all children to our schools next week it is important to be mindful of how we’re feeling.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns will have made us all experience a range of emotions that might have impacted on our mental health and wellbeing.

You might be feeling anxious, confused and just a little low.

For many a return to school lessons and friends will be an exciting time but others will be anxious and that is completely natural. I am sure many parents and teachers are feeling the same way.

In the current climate, it is more important than ever that we support each other and together we will make it work. There are also some helpful resources on the Are You OK website:

I would like to thank everyone across our community for all that they have done so far. There is still a way to go but with a fair wind next week may bring, depending on circumstances this week, us back to the normality that I’m sure we all crave. The signs are encouraging, as I said at the start we have now reached 14 days, a full incubation cycle of the virus, without any identified community spread. But it is important this week that at this final hurdle we do not let down our guard. So please just for a little longer keep to the rules in place to ensure we protect our community so we can all return to some form of normality as soon as possible.

On a sad note the Isle of Man Constabulary has made us aware that we are seeing an increased number of scammers specifically targeting our island. These scammers are calling older people and exploiting the vaccine rollout and cold calling them using it as a lever to try and get personal details. There is also increased activity around scammers pretending to be from the Isle of Man Bank. The behaviour of these people targeting some of the most vulnerable in society is reprehensible and shows them up as the worst of humanity, trying to exploit for personal gain the fear and anxiety of those most vulnerable during a worldwide pandemic. I can’t even begin to express the disgust I feel for people who would do such a thing. But sadly those people are out there and we all need to remain on our guard and vigilant against this form of activity. Remember never give out personal details or bank details to unsolicited callers. The 111 service will never cold call you about a vaccine. Those eligible for a vaccine will receive a letter that allows them to make contact with 111 to book an appointment. Should you get a call please never be afraid to call back on an official government number making sure the line is clear before you do call back.

On that sad note, without further delay we will now turn to questions from the media.

Thank you to our media partners for those questions.

This week marks what we hope may be, if the situation remains unchanged over the rest of the week, the final week of our circuit break lockdown. I would like to thank all of you for taking the rules seriously and once again being determined to beat this dreadful, debilitating virus. It is thanks to your determination that once again we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and can hope to move towards some semblance of normality for our island community.

Tomorrow there will be a public question and answer session hosted by James Davis with questions being fielded by the Director of Public Health and the Chief Executive of the Department of Health and Social Care.

Can I thank those that have submitted questions and I hope that viewers will find the session informative.

We hope to have further announcements to make around our transition back towards normal after Council of Ministers has met towards the end of this week. In the meantime thank you for your continued support and vigilance, and stay safe.