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Statement by the Chief Minister on COVID-19 – 30 March 2020

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I often thank the journalists for joining us at this press briefing. But I would like today to thank you the public for tuning in. Friday’s briefing had almost thirty five thousand views across the various platforms. I know for some people this is becoming an important moment of the day.

Thank you for your feedback about the people we have brought in to talk to you alongside our ministers. You have welcomed the doctors and nurses we have had. And I know that Co-op’s Andy Corrie brought some welcome amusement to us all on Friday talking about the Island’s toilet needs. On a serious note, he did of course bring important reassurance about the supply to our Island of food and essential supplies.

We have heard your feedback and we will continue to bring members of our Island community in to talk to you about what they are doing.

I have just come back from visiting our new Community Support Line centre.  I am really grateful to the team for the speed in which they set up such an important resource for the Island.

The centre is staffed by civil servants from across government who have volunteered to be redeployed to work shifts to help their community.

David covered this yesterday in his briefing – but it is worth repeating – that this is the number to call for all non-clinical questions relating to the current COVID-19 situation.

The number is 686-262.

For medical needs, please continue to call our COVID-111 line. But this new 686262 line is for anything else and will help reduce waiting time on 111.

The new line can help you with information on:

  • Measures currently in place
  • Support available in our community
  • Support for businesses and workers
  • What to do if you are concerned about others breaching guidelines.

It is also there as a resource for anyone who might not have access to the internet and our website at If you know anyone who might have concerns or questions, let them know about this number.

I wanted to pick up on a few of the hot topics that the team at the Community Support centre told me about.

People have asked about various types of exercise and recreation. “Can I go roller blading because the rules only said walking or running?” or “How long can I go out for?”

For things like this, I would call on everyone to use common sense. At the moment, we have not entered into the most precise detail because we want to be able to trust people to make the right decisions.

We all know what the measures are for. They are to prevent the spread of the virus from one household to another. It is about keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. It is about protecting the most vulnerable people on our Island.

It feels pretty clear to me. Please use common sense. Make the right decisions. If people abuse this flexibility, we will be forced to take additional measures.

There was also a worrying question about employers forcing their employees to come into work - and their workplace not practising social distancing measures. This is unacceptable. If people can work from home then employers should be enabling this. If they cannot, then social distancing in the workplace needs to be respected. If companies do not respect these rules then we will be forced to take action.

We have just made it through our first weekend. I would like to pass on my personal thanks to all those who followed our rules.

To those who had to work to keep essential services going, or those who were providing support for others across our community – thank you.

To everyone who was able to stay at home – thank you. To those of you who have reduced any trips to the absolute essential – thank you.

I know that our health & social care colleagues, and our emergency services colleagues will join me in thanking you. This is how you can play your part and help them.

I know that the current measures are tough for many. But we only need to look across to our friends in the United Kingdom to see the pressure they are under. It is clear that this is going to be a marathon not a sprint. The UK do not believe that they are at their peak yet. The tide is building there but the wave has not yet crashed. The worst is yet to come for them.

I want to finish with some positive points.

Firstly, I would like to thank our Island food retailers who have worked with government to put into place a system to identify support workers – whether government or from registered private providers – who are shopping for our most vulnerable. They may be shopping for multiple households. We – and our retail partners – wanted to avoid any confusion that they might over-shopping.

They will be wearing these hi-viz vests. 

They will also be carrying documents to confirm who they are.

If you see these people, they are supporting our most vulnerable people. They deserve our respect and support.

Secondly, you may have heard about the establishment of the Manx Solidarity Fund.  As the Treasury Minister mentioned this morning, this is a new initiative established by members of our community – and driven by some of our leading businesses - to assist our most needy individuals, businesses and organisations. I thank all those involved for their energy and community spirit.

Thirdly, I wanted to thank all those public servants who have shown flexibility and are being redeployed to support front line services.

As well as those I saw this morning manning the community support line, redeployed civil servants are:

  • Supporting the clinicians on the 111 line;
  • Supporting public health in their contact tracing;
  • And colleagues from Isle of Man Transport who are now stewarding cars at the mobile testing centre.

These are just a few examples of course. There are many others.

Departmental silos are breaking down as the whole public service has joined a concerted effort to support the Island.

Lastly, I know there are so many people out there who are going the extra mile for our Island. I would like to ensure that we recognise them in our briefings and social media. If you have seen someone who deserves a shout out then please let me know through our social media channels – using the hashtag “Howard’s Heroes”.

So thank you for everything you have done so far for our Island.

Please keep it up. Keep yourself well. Keep your families well. Keep your Island well.