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Minister Cannan's Statement on COVID-19 - 17 April 2020

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Since this morning’s update there have been 2 further confirmed positive tests for coronavirus. 

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Isle of Man is 291.

There has been 2375 tests, 2259 concluded tests and 116 people are awaiting results.

In total 107 patients have been instructed to self-isolate and 11 are presently being treated at the hospital. The contact tracing process is already underway led by Public Health.

In total 169 individuals are presumed recovered and there have been a total of four deaths caused by the coronavirus.

Over the past four weeks I have set out a range of measures that we have put in place to provide financial support to the Island through this Coronavirus pandemic.

I know that we currently have a wide range of businesses, families and individuals impacted by both the global and local measures that have been undertaken to try and control this virus.

Last week I announced that the Manx Earnings Replacement Scheme had opened for business. Since 6 April, Social Security staff have received over 2000 applications. 742 have been approved and will, if they have not already done so, have received their payments by the end of next week at the latest.

We expect the remainder of the current applicants to have been notified of the outcome of their claim to MERA within the next two weeks.


We are continuing to receive applications at a rate of 100 a day.

The Coronavirus Salary Support Scheme went live at midday yesterday and by 1pm today we had received 566 applications. All being well we should be making the first payments by the end of next week.

At the moment, more than 60 staff are working exclusively on the Salary Support Scheme. The staff are trained and are processing the applications as quickly as possible.

We know that the phone lines have been busy. We are doing everything we can to get to callers as soon as possible. Please keep trying, or contact us by email.  Your request will be answered and dealt with as soon as we possibly can.

The Coronavirus Business Support Scheme has been running for a number of weeks now and was set up to provide a £3,000 grant to a number of individuals and companies.  The scheme has had over 3,000 applications. As things stood this morning, 866 have been paid but processing these grants has taken longer than we had hoped or anticipated. I would like to apologise to those of you who have submitted an application and have not yet had a response. We are working as fast as we can – with our colleagues in the Department for Enterprise - to improve the processing speed and get these much-needed payments out. 

However, a number of requests have been refused under the Business Support Scheme. 

The most common reason for rejection has been a company’s or an individual’s compliance with tax and national insurance requirements.

Let me be clear; if you have operated your business in a properly structured manner and paid your share of National Insurance contributions you should find that your route to accessing funds is straightforward.

If you have opted not to pay National Insurance or have failed to register your company in the proper manner with the Authorities, then matters become more complicated.

Even though this is a national emergency, it is not a free for all. 

Having said that, we are re-examining the criteria that is being imposed and some flexibility on this will now be applied. This should mean that more claims will qualify and the Department for Enterprise will update their guidance accordingly. We will reassess those claims previously rejected.

I am aware it is taking some time for support to reach you. I want to assure you that Treasury officers and our colleagues in the Department for Enterprise have and are working every hour possible to process applications in a legitimate manner.

I want to publicly thank staff who have been under an enormous strain to deliver these measures.

But I also want to thank those desperate for money for your patience and I also want to remind you, particularly businesses that you must also seek to use all the resources at your disposal to find a way through this crisis. 

I must continue to highlight that we have agreed with Island Banks to support up to £60m of lending on the Island by underwriting 80% of any loans extended to businesses in need.

Businesses should also be carefully considering how they might operate in the future.  There is much discussion taking place of what the future might look like – now is the time for you to consider how you might change or alter your business for the better.

Of course all the measures that we are undertaking are and will impact on Government finances particularly when combined with projected losses of revenue.  I have already indicated that the estimated direct cost of these interventions may be up to £100m in the next three months and that we may experience a short term decline in expected tax and VAT receipts.

In order to prepare for any unforeseen eventualities I have written to Tynwald Members today indicating that I will be seeking to amend our legislation to allow the Treasury more flexibility when it comes to borrowing money.  This will be needed as a prudent measure to protect against unexpected eventualities and I will outline the full purpose and intent of the Treasury when the House of Keys next sits.

Three weeks ago the Government took significant steps to protect the Island from the serious effects and loss of life that an unchecked spread of Coronavirus would bring.

We closed businesses, we closed borders and we asked you to stay at home. 

These were tough decisions. We knew there would be impact on everyone. But we did this for a reason.

We needed to prepare our Island for the inevitable challenges the spread of the virus was going to throw at us. We did it to save lives. To keep you and your loved ones safe.

What we asked you to do was significant. You should be proud of your response. You are making a difference.

Calls to the 111 line are reducing significantly, infection rates are broadly under control and the capacity in the hospital remains good.

By staying at home, you have given us time and space.

  • You have given our NHS space to prepare.
  • You have given us time to consider the data that we have from testing and tracing.
  • And you have also given us space to consider the future.

Over the past ten days, a cross-governmental taskforce has been working to understand how successful the measures in place have been and what is needed now for the Island to move forward in a manner that protects life, protects our health and protects our futures.

This is a team made up of colleagues from the Treasury, the Department for Enterprise, the Cabinet Office and crucially the Department of Health and Social Care.

The taskforce has assessed the time is right for us to be able to make some changes to our measures – changes that may allow for a gradual return to normality while social distancing guidelines continue to be observed.

We have considered many factors.  We have analysed data, we have tracked and measured the virus impact and we have assessed and drawn up response and action plans.

Our clinicians have considered the initial findings and provided advice and feedback.  The Council of Ministers has also now been briefed and Tynwald Members have been provided with an overview of our outline assessment and plans. 

Work will continue over the weekend. We are completing a fully co-ordinated and workable plan to move the Island forward that takes into account many factors but one which is underpinned by a robust health strategy.

It is currently our intention that the Chief Minister will take you through this work and our plans in detail next week but what I can say to you is that we are seeking, all things being equal, to commence a carefully phased and structured return to work from next Friday for some sectors including construction, associated trades and horticulture.

I want to be absolutely clear with you that this will only be possible if we all maintain our current discipline and adhere to the guidelines that are currently in place for the next seven days. A failure to do so will jeopardise our plans.

So subject to the performance data next week and your continued respect of the measures in place, we may be able to take modest steps forward from next Friday BUT it will only be the Chief Minister who will be able to confirm to you next week that we are in a position to do so.  I urge you to pay close attention to his next appearance and to listen carefully thereafter as the Health Minister lays out detailed advice and guidance.

We are doing well in the circumstances but we must retain our discipline.  The Island community is displaying the qualities needed to get through this and we need to remain calm and focused in the days and weeks ahead.

I will now take questions.