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Statement to Tynwald by the Minister for Health and Social Care on COVID-19 - 14 April 2020

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Mr President  

Before I begin this statement, I would like to convey a message from the Chief Minister who although present today has asked that I deliver his statement on his behalf.  

I know that the first thing he would want me to mention is to say thanks to everyone who has been in touch to wish him well. 

It really does help to have these messages of support and good will and I know that he is very appreciative. 

Whilst he is lucky that his symptoms have not been so severe as to need anything other than rest, I know that it has lifted his spirits to receive such warm messages from so many Honourable Members and from the wider community as well. 

I would also like to convey my gratitude.  

I want to thank my Ministerial colleagues, and the officers who support us, who have been pressing on with the fight against the virus during the holiday weekend.  

Of course, on behalf of everyone in our Island community, I would also like to thank all of those on our frontline – those men and women providing vital services, not just in Government, but those who provide all of the important services which keep our community going. 

They have worked so hard for the good of all – and we cannot thank them enough. 

And I would also like to thank those members of our community who are quietly and conscientiously following Government advice. 

It is vital that everyone continues to stay at home, to venture out only when absolutely necessary and essential, and to observe the appropriate guidance on social distancing.  

I am proud of the response of the people of the Island to this threat. 

And this is the message I would like to emphasise. 

As well as my thanks, I would like to ask everyone who is either self-isolating, or social-distancing, to stick with it; to keep it up. 

It is hard, but it is working. 

I do not want to dampen anyone’s spirits, but at the same time, I would not wish to weaken anyone’s resolve. 

We are at a critical stage in our fight against this virus, and we must hold our nerve now.  

Everyone can, and must, play their part – everyone’s role will be different – but each of them is vital. 

We have pulled together and stood firm. 

So I want to stress that although we are seeing some positive results, the clinical advice we are receiving is that the measures on social distancing must stay in place. 

There may be some scope to make some changes in the medium term, and of course, we are thinking about how we can create a phased return to what businesses could start to come back with strict social distancing in mind.  

But we are not there yet.  

So we cannot relax, one bit, our advice to stay at home and to venture out only if absolutely necessary remains in place. 

I also need to announce, Mr President, this advice will remain in place until at least 23rd April. 

We also need to continue to prevent new cases coming in to our Island. 

That means measures to protect our borders must remain in place, and all of those who wish to return to the Isle of Man from the UK and from further afield must follow the appropriate procedures. 

We will as politicians come under pressure, and we will feel that pressure, of those who have concerns about people who want to return to the Island. 

But we must stick with the strict guidelines which we have set out, and those who wish to return must follow the guidance, just as all of must do. 

We do this when we ring 111, when we self-isolate, when we engage with the helpline, or when we look to see how we go about social distancing. 

Council of Ministers has been taking advice from medical professionals, our clinicians and policy officers – we have been putting that into law, and into guidance for our citizens. 

It is there for a reason, and for a good reason – to protect our Island, our people, and our National Health Service. 

For those reasons, we will apply those travel restrictions rigorously, and our border will remain closed for at least another month. 

Mr President, turning to today’s business. 

I am very grateful to you and to Honourable Members for your flexibility in accommodating these weekly sittings of Tynwald. 

They mean that we can progress emergency legislation, emergency measures, and also gives me and my ministerial colleagues a measure of regularity, or consistency, in these most unsettled times.  

Isle of Man Government is working hard across all fronts to fight this invisible enemy, and whilst meticulous and careful planning is always necessary, we also welcome the opportunity for scrutiny from our political colleagues and from the public.  

And can I also add personal thanks to all Honourable Members of this Court to the way they have engaged with DHSC. There’s been many queries, obviously many concerns. We had the presentation to Members last Thursday. The feedback I’ve had is that it was very well received and we will be continuing with those. But I would like to thank all Honourable Members for the way they have engaged with DHSC, certainly in my role as Minister for Health and Social Care. We may not have always agreed on things but hopefully we have been able to give Honourable Members answers when we can. 

Thank you very much Mr President