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Minister Skelly's statement on COVID-19 - 5 May 2020

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Good afternoon

We are just part way through a very active Tynwald debate regarding the Island’s future.

While we take a break from debate, I’d like to give you the latest updates on our test figures and on our economic progress.

Since the last update yesterday there has been one confirmed positive test for coronavirus in the Isle of Man. There have been no further confirmed deaths from coronavirus.

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Isle of Man now stands at 326. The number of deaths in the community remains at 17, and hospital deaths remain at 6.

There have been 3,416 concluded tests, 43 people are awaiting results and 6 people are awaiting tests. 19 people are currently being treated at the hospital.

To everyone who is in Noble’s or recovering at home - I wish you all a speedy recovery.

Since the start of this pandemic I’ve been truly impressed by the adaptability of the people of the Isle of Man as you have all continued to work and adjust to the changing restrictions and limitations on everyday life. You have heard me talk many times before about resiliency, and our Island has shown that in bucket loads.

From the people adapting to a new way of working from home to the people heading into work day in and day out to keep our essential services running. It has not been easy.

We have had to quickly change our working practices and redefine the art of the possible with limited face to face interaction and a new reliance on technology and communication.

We have seen businesses move full teams of employees to remote working, introduce strict social distancing measures to ensure the welfare of their staff, and we’ve seen thousands of people taking a sensible and well-balanced approach to keeping our Island and our economy going. I would sincerely like to thank you all.

Last month we announced that construction, trades and horticulture related businesses could return to work where it was safe to do so. This first phased return for certain areas of our economy was an essential part of our move to ‘Stay Safe’ and the safeguarding of jobs and our economy for the future.

It allows us to reduce pressure on parts of our society and our economy, and allows us to focus on those areas likely to need more support for far longer.

Since the return to work we have received positive feedback from our partners across the sectors who have found sensible and safe ways to return to work and resume important activity for many of the Island’s people and businesses.

Businesses have offered good support to their workers to make sure they’re safe and with the salary support scheme working alongside - it means that the vulnerable workers don’t have to go back to work until they are ready.

Thank you to those business that have adapted to the changes.

The return to work of different sectors will always be a delicate balance and one which will only be achieved through regular dialogue and consistent review through our clearly defined measures of health readiness, social pressures and economic pressures.

This week the Council of Ministers published a key medium response document that outlines how we will monitor these measures in order to decide how we move forward in a considered, transparent, measured and phased way.

Our initial stage introduced as part of the strategic response to date, ‘Stay at Home’, have been well received by the Manx public, and they appear to have successfully managed the spread of coronavirus and flattened the ‘curve’ or rate of transmission.

It has been a remarkable journey in such a short time, and the Manx public should be highly commended for pulling together to help achieve so much in such little time.

We have now moved into Stage two – ‘Stay Safe’ which will involve a series of decisions about current health, social and economic restrictions that will be reviewed regularly - with our next review set for this Thursday.

In the meantime we continue to support our economic sectors that are struggling with the continuing restrictions. The raft of schemes introduced last month are providing much needed assistance to some of our hardest hit sectors.

To date we have worked through a considerable volume of applications and enquiries for our various support schemes.

The Department’s Coronavirus Business Support Scheme has been receiving hundreds of enquiries a day. We have now paid out over £7 million pounds to over 2,000 local businesses and self-employed. We are continuing to work around the clock to ensure eligible applicants get this essential funding as quickly as possible and have now processed 97% of all applications received.

Our Bank Loan Guarantee scheme, created in partnership with HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays, Conister Bank and RBSI (including Natwest and the Isle of Man Bank), has now approved over £1.2 million pounds of additional funding for 23 businesses - with applications still coming in.

We have also now paid £1.9 million worth of applications for our Strategic Capacity Scheme to help 37 businesses in our tourist accommodation sector, with 61 more applications in the pipeline. This fund will help accommodation providers ensure their creditors within the local supply chain are paid first to help boost the local economy.

We have also processed over £60,000 worth of support for businesses evolving their operating models through our Business Adaptation Scheme – showing that Manx innovation is very much alive and well!

Treasury has now processed over 2,600 applications for the Manx Earnings Replacement Allowance to help those displaced from work at this difficult time. Their Salary Support Scheme has now paid out over £6 million to help businesses retain employees and maintain a consistent and engaged workforce and has supported over 8,000 jobs.

Our hope is that with all of our support packages and working together as Government, Business and Society, actual job losses can be more contained.

We understand the pressure that our Island’s businesses and individuals are under and we mobilised a new workforce to ensure payments are going through as quickly as possible, working across various parts of the Department for Enterprise and Treasury to deliver a clear and direct service for the Island’s businesses.

Of course it would have been impossible to create a bespoke solution for each business affected in the Isle of Man, but we have endeavoured to give advice and support wherever possible to help as many businesses as we can.

However, we are still on a long and uncertain journey and we know that we will need to revisit the support options going forward to ensure our businesses have security and assistance as we head into an unfamiliar future. This is another reason why we need to bring those businesses back to work where it is safe to do so, in a phased and measured way.

We continue to work with Treasury, industry partners and associations to make sure we have a frank and rounded picture of the Island’s economic landscape and the challenges our businesses are facing. We are now extensively looking at our longer term economic planning and what support might be required on a longer term basis.

Working together we will forge a new way that uses the best of Manx innovation and resilience to ultimately establish a new normal that gives us the quality of life we all work so hard to maintain on this Island.

But we will still have difficult decisions and judgements ahead.

Yesterday we announced the cancellation of this year’s Classic TT and Manx GP – a clear example of one of these difficult decisions, one that we never wanted to have to make. A decision that was unfortunately inevitable in the light of the travel restrictions and logistic challenges facing our Island and one that was made in full consultation with all relevant stakeholders.

That’s again part of our framework shown in our Medium term response - Where we need to make decisions we will do so with all the evidence we have, and we will consult and listen to a wide range of opinions in doing so.

The Department for Enterprise has a key role to play in this and we will continue to play an active part in facilitating these important discussions.

While we continue to see shifts in our culture, our society, and our economy, I’m confident that the Island’s spirit and determination will see us through.

The Chief Minister’s clarification yesterday regarding visiting friends and family is a further acknowledgement of the good judgment shown by the Isle of Man public and trust in people to make sensible choices.

Under the current legislative framework, up to two people could visit another person at their premises.

They should stay outside and they should maintain 2m distance from the other householders at all times

We know the effect social distancing has had on many people. So this is a sensible and pragmatic way to support people’s mental wellbeing while maintaining social distance.

It is still an offence to gather in public spaces such as beaches, glens or parks.

And I must remind you that we are not out of the woods yet and we still have a long way to go before we can resume our normal lives. The best thing you can do is keep washing your hands, maintain social distancing measures, and stay at home where you can. Please show respect for others and continue to make the right decisions for you, your family and your community.

I will now take questions.