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Statement by the Chief Minister on COVID-19 - 3 April 2020

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Good afternoon, everyone 

I am flying solo this evening. I wanted to give my ministerial colleagues a break after what has been a busy week for them all.  

I would like to give you the most recent testing figures for today.

There has been an increase in confirmed cases. I know that this may have caused some concern. Some of this is because of the high level of testing we have been doing. We are testing a lot. I provided some figures in my briefing yesterday.  

This is not an easy job and I am grateful to our teams who are doing it. We have the equipment we need to do the testing. The laboratories in the United Kingdom are turning around our results still within about 48 hours. By the middle of this month we will have our own testing facilities up and running.  

Some people have asked me whether the increase in positive tests means that measures we have brought in are not effective. I understand why people might think this. And I think it is worth clarifying.  

Much is still unknown about the virus. But we do know that the incubation period can be long. The clinical advice is that it can be as long as fourteen days.  You can have the virus for this long without showing symptoms. But during this time, you could be infectious to others and spread the virus.  

Before, the virus was spreading on the Island as we went about our business. The measures in place enable us to surpress the spread of the virus. To isolate it We need to see it to fight it. This period of twenty-one days will help us get a clearer picture of the scale of the challenge ahead.  

Please remember: 

  • COVID-19 spreads through person to person contact; 
  • Reducing person to person contact will reduce the spread; 
  • If we reduce the spread, we reduce the risk to our community.  

By staying at home, you are breaking the chain. You are preventing the transmission from one household to another. And please don’t forget, it is not just about you passing the virus on to someone else. By staying at home, you may be preventing someone giving the virus to you and your loved ones.  

I thought this was an important message to share with you in advance of what looks like being a sunny weekend.  

It was a week ago that we closed our borders. I made a statement in Tynwald this morning to remind people why we had done this.  

Since that day one week ago, the world has changed.  

One week ago, the World Health Organisation was reporting that global confirmed cases were “approaching half a million” and “over twenty thousand confirmed deaths”.  Well these figures have doubled. Globally there have now been a million confirmed cases. And already forty-five thousand deaths.   

Even just one week ago, I wonder how many of us could have predicted where we would be today. We were all seeing tragic images from places we may have been on holiday.  Even before the UK, we were seeing the people of Italy and Spain experiencing deeply distressing situations.  

And over the last week, our Island has changed. On Wednesday this week, I stood before you to share the sad news of our first COVID-related death. Life has fast become very different. We need to redouble our determination.    

In a second I will take questions. I also want to share with you a new video clip.  

Before I do, I would like to say something about the announcement I made to Tynwald today about work to enable some of our residents who are stuck overseas 

Some people have said that we forgot or abandoned our residents. Nothing could be further from the truth.   

We have made clear that we wanted to find a way for them to come home. But our clinicians told us that closing the borders was the right thing to do. They also told us that if we re-opened them – even to let in our own – we would be importing danger to our Island and putting lives at risk. We listened to their advice.  

We found ourselves between a rock and a hard place. We wanted our residents home. But we were not prepared to put the lives of our community on the line.  

We have continued trying to find a way through this. We have a plan. We are close to finalising the protocols that may enable the return of our residents in a managed, safe, staggered manner. We will be working to finalise the details over the weekend and will make a full announcement on Monday. 

This may not solve every person’s issues immediately. And we will not be throwing open our borders. It will involve small batches of people. And rigorous, enforced quarantinePlease rest assured, we will only act in a way that our clinicians fully support.  

More on Monday.  

So before questions, I would like to give some shout-outs. As always, there are too many to mention them all. But today’s three are: 

FirstOne of our low income workers yesterday returned a £400 tax credit because he felt that there would be people in more need of it than him and we should just pay it back into Government funds. 

Second. A team shout out to Nobles laundry & linen staff Someone wrote to me about how hard they are working, behind the scenes, in support of the medical staff at the hospital. A big thank you to them.  

ThirdThanks to Fynoderee who have adapted their production line to making World Health Organisation standard hand sanitiser. Maybe with a hint of juniper? This week they donated five hundred litres to the Department of Health and Social Care. Manx spirit in action.  

Thank you to all of these. And for everyone else who is going above and beyond. Please keep your praise coming.  

I will now take questions.  

I know how moving you found the video clip featuring our Health & Social Care colleagues last week. So before I go, I would like to share with you a new video that pays tribute to the vast range of people who are keeping our Island moving during these difficult times.  

Until the next time, please have a good weekend. But please do it at home wherever possible.  

And please stay safe.