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Statement by the Chief Minister on COVID-19 - 2 April 2020

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Good afternoon, everyone 

Yesterday was a hard day for the Island. I was touched by the expressions of solidarity and determination that I heard.  

The Minister of Health & Social Care is with me today. Before I hand over to him for his regular update, I would like to make a point of my own around testing.  

Some people have told us that we should be testing more. I agree that testing – along with the actions on self-isolation and social distancing that we have in place - lies at the heart of our ability to reduce the impact of the virus.   

But we have to test in line with the best clinical advice. We have to prioritise. We have to target 

I am proud of what we already have in place. Our teams swabbing at the mobile centre and out in the community are doing a great job. It is a labour intensive process.  

Our on-Island testing facility is on course to be operational in a couple of weeks. This will allow quicker turn around.  

For our small population, we are doing well. I looked at the statistics this morning.  To date, the number of tests we have done equates to a rate of almost fifteen thousand tests per million population.  This compares, to Jersey at just below ten thousand and Guernsey at just over eleven thousand.  

I know that our population size does make direct comparison difficult. But even South Korea - who are often cited as the gold standard - are at under eight thousand per million.   

Of particular relevance to us of course is the United Kingdom who are currently at just over two thousand tests per million. Even their aspiration to test twenty five thousand a day, would only equate to six a day in the Isle of Man. We are doing considerably better than that.  

Let me now hand over to the Minister for an update on the figures as they stand this afternoon. And I know that he wants to cover other issues.  

Thank you, David.  

Before we take questions, I do want to address another story that has attracted some attention on social media and on which I know there will be debate in Tynwald tomorrow.  Namely the Isle of Man residents who did not make it back to the Island before we closed our borders.  

We have not lost sight of these people. We continue to examine how we can help them.  

I know that this is an emotional question. We have to balance the few who are stranded with the welfare of the whole Island population – and particularly the most vulnerable.  

We will get this sorted. We will do the right thing at the right time. But I have to make clear that we will only allow them back to the Island when our clinicians judge the time is right and that the process is sufficiently robust. 

We cannot be driven by our emotionsWe need to make decisions on the basis of the best advice available. We cannot afford to import more risk to the Island.   

Before we go to questions, I would like to share with you some more details of inspirational heroes from across our Island community.  As always there were so many stories that touched my heart. Do take a look yourself on our social media channels to see how our Island is rising to the challenge. Three that caught my attention were: 

FirstI have had a lot of praise for our refuse collectors across the Island. And rightly so. Keeping our community clean is key in keeping us healthy. Unsung heroes. Thank you so much.  

SecondI had a lovely message from Katie Watson about her dad. He has been working long days delivering plants for free to people who are locked down to bring some joy to them.  

ThirdA number of you have asked me to thank our pharmacists. And I am delighted to do so. Not only are they of course providing access to important medications but we are hearing stories about them going the extra mile for their communities.  

Thank you to all these heroes.  

At this point I will take questions.  

Thank you all very much. Please keep safe.