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Statement by the Chief Minister on COVID-19 – 26 March 2020

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We made a series of important announcements yesterday. I have been overwhelmed for the support we have received. I have been deeply touched by messages I have been receiving since this difficult period started. Thank you. This keeps me going.

As I said, we did not make these decisions lightly. They will impact on our economy and on our Island way of life. But the united view of the Council of Ministers – and of our clinicians - was that these were the right things to do.

The Treasury Minister and his team are working flat out on what else they can do to support the economy and our workers. I thank them for all that they are doing.

As well as leading in terms of measures, government has a responsibility to listen. I know there are some areas that are causing concern and some that need clarification. I will do my best to address this today. 

I would like to remind people that we have launched our new COVID-19 website. You can access it through the same address as before – There is a host of information there, including about:

  • Handwashing and hygiene
  • Testing
  • Social distancing
  • Support for businesses
  • Health & wellbeing

If you have questions, please start there. This will free up precious time for our health and social care professionals.

So to clarify some of the announcements made yesterday.

First. Closure of the borders.

When the Ben-My-Cree arrives in the morning, we are closing our borders for an initial period of twenty one days. People will be able to leave of course. But we need to protect our Island.

Yesterday I announced that the only exceptions to this would be an extremely small number of people essential to our critical national infrastructure or for the preservation of human life. I should make clear that even these few people will be subjected to a rigorous process when they arrive. They will not be able to circulate freely. The rigour of this process is essential in reducing the risks to our Island.

Some people have complained that they did not have sufficient notice. The evolution of this pandemic has been apparent for some time. I – and Ministerial colleagues – have made clear that if people wanted to come home, they needed to do so as soon as possible.

We are acutely aware that due to lockdowns around the world, some Manx residents – even with best endeavours – have not been able to return in time for the border closure. We realise the position this has placed some people in. We will continue to provide advice and support to them as best we can.

Secondly. Shops and businesses

All non-essential shops will close tonight. As I said yesterday, this measure will be in place for an initial period of twenty one days. We will keep this under review in light of the spread of infection on the Island and the situation across in the United Kingdom.

We have now published the approved shop list on our new website – -I hope this brings clarity.

Freight continues to come in as normal. There continues to be a healthy supply of food and other important supplies. I would like to thank our food retailers for the work they are doing. Andrew Correy, the regional Co-op manager has agreed to join this press conference tomorrow and share his professional view.

I would like to also make clear – following some questions from the public that beyond tonight, you will continue to be able to pick up your favourite take away. But you must observe strict social distancing.

Equally with taxis. Those operators that wish to continue will be able to do so in line with the guidance we have already provided to the industry.

Thirdly. Construction

We have been receiving a number of questions about construction. The Council of Ministers today discussed this important issue. We know that this is a significant sector in our economy. But we have also been advised that this is another area of activity that can increase the risk of spread of the virus spreading.

From 23:59 – that is one minute to midnight - tonight we will require all construction work to stop. We will show some flexibility to work required tomorrow only to make safe any worksites.

Until further notice, the only exception will be for essential or emergency work. For example, if your boiler breaks then of course you will be able to get that repaired. If there is an issue that might lead to injury for you or your family, you will of course be able to call a contractor to fix it. But any regular work must stop.

Government will be taking the same steps. If there is any work that we believe is in the immediate national interest then we may allow this.  But we too will stop regular work. Work on the Douglas Promenade for example will be paused until further notice.

Finally. Enforcing Social Distancing

I have been heartened by how the Island has risen to this cause. I have seen people spreading the word and reminding others of their responsibilities. This is what we need.

I know people have been thinking twice about whether they need to go out. This is what we need.

I have had people telling me how they are helping a friend or neighbour who is self-isolating. This is what we need.

One message that touched me yesterday was someone who had gone to a Glen for fresh air but had seen a few too many cars parked there and had chosen to go somewhere else. This is what we need.

I have said again and again that we all have a role to play.

Staying at home will save lives on the Isle of Man.