This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government Press Conference conducted on 27 May 2020. You should not rely upon it — it is transcribed by an automated speech recognition service, and I cannot guarantee its accuracy.

Before relying or quoting anything contained here, you should verify it against the underlying audio recorded here. Time Stamps and automatically-generated speaker names should help in the verification.

David Ashford 0:00
Good afternoon, everyone. It has been great to be speaking it is great to be speaking to you here on what has been a beautiful day on our island. Last week we heard from Margaret Knight, the head of our infection prevention and control team. This evening. I’m very pleased to be joined by Dr. Duncan Gary, who is our consultant geriatrician. Before we turn to Dr. Gary, I should give you today’s statistics, the total number of tests undertaken stands at 4669. The total number of tests returns stands at 4648. So the total number of outstanding outstanding test results is 21. The total number of cases testing positive remains are 336. That means there have been no new cases since yesterday’s update. The total number of active cases is now six. Before I asked Dr. Garry to update us on his work, I would like to pick up on something that has been Discuss the letter on social media. In yesterday’s statistics, we said that the number of people waiting for tests was 24. The eagle eyed among you picked up on the fact that this was much higher than the usual daily figure. I know it calls some puzzlement. Some people were worried that we may have been about to announce new confirmed cases. There is actually a much simpler explanation. And in fact, a good news story, as the chief minister mentioned last week, and as we heard from Dr. Gregor Paden on Friday, because you have done such a great job of suppressing the spread of the virus, the number of calls to our COVID 111 line, are now at a much lower level. Because of this, and because we established our own testing facility on Island, we found ourselves with spare capacity. The department of health and social care, looked at how we could put this capacity to best use, we decided to offer weekly tests to those key workers who Work with the vulnerable or interact one on one contact at the moment. This includes those working in care and residential home settings, supported living and voluntary sector partners in those fields. It will also include prison and police officers. I’m delighted to be able to offer this to our frontline workers. We will review each week to see how demand loops. If we are able to widen the categories that this is available to them, we will we will of course want to ensure that we maintain a certain capacity to deal with needs at the hospital, or referrals from covert 111. This takes me nicely to Dr. Gary, our testing strategy, along with the tracing and self isolation process that follows where there’s been a positive case is one part of our success story preventing the spread of infection in society and generally Generally among vulnerable groups in particular, has also been crucial in preventing a spike in cases and a surge in demand at the hospital. One important task in this area has been to offer proactive assistance to residential homes so they can become and remain resilient to Coronavirus. beefing up that resilience has been the job of a special task force we set up some weeks ago. Like other initiatives across government during this crisis, we’ve drawn on the expertise, commitment, local knowledge and insights of our own professionals and subject experts. I’m very pleased to welcome to the briefing today. Our consultant, geriatrician, Dr. Duncan Gary, who will tell us more about the team and the challenge. It’s taken on. Dr. Gary

Dr Duncan Gary 3:58
thank you for inviting me today. To talk about the actions we taken to help the care homes on the Isle of Man cope in the face of COVID-19. We realised very early on that COVID-19 poses a significant risk to the integrity of the health and social care services on the Isle of Man. We also realise that it poses a significant risk to the frail and vulnerable elderly residents of our island. We’ve also seen from members around the world that COVID-19 poses a real risk to care homes. And what we need to do was increase the resilience of these care homes to cope in the face of COVID-19. So that was therefore our aim to increase the resilience of care homes. And our hope in doing so was to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. In the care home to care home staff, and other other residents, we felt the best way to care for everyone is to care for the carers. The journey has been a collaborative one with a multi Discipline team, spanning the acute and community settings. Having only been on the island a few months, it’s been my pleasure to meet and work with my GP colleagues, the senior nurses in the hospital infection control, and many of the caring staff from numerous care homes. Planning to minimise the risk in the care homes has become a three part process. Firstly, we assess care homes and their current state of preparedness. And we offer guidance and advice on how to improve the now and then to carry on with the second part which is an ongoing support and assurance process. Lastly, there is a team who will visit care homes should an outbreak occur to rapidly assess and respond to new cases in care homes. In the first step, the assessment and supporting this preparedness has evolved infection control Senior nursing care home managers, Staff, General practice and hospital consultants. We assess the policies and processes to do with infection control and personal protective equipment. We review the education and training of care home staff, we assess the environment in which the care is work in the residence live. And we pay attention to the particular challenges for and posed by residents should covered come to call. From this we generated a matrix with a red amber and green rating. And this informs the second part of the process and the ongoing support to make sure we maintain our state preparedness. This process has been invaluable in terms of learning for both the community and us with each visit, giving an extra layer of detail that the next home benefits from the outcomes are collated and we discussed them all as a team at the end of every week. Regarding outbreaks we felt the love numbers the right one and we determined an outbreak to be a single new positive test in either a carer or a resident of any care home. And we’ve responded to care homes now on two occasions. The outbreak response team is very similar to the initial assessments with again community and acute colleagues, nursing, medical and care home staff. We meet the team together at the care home, either that afternoon or the next morning, weekdays and weekends. And we review again, the current state of PP stocks, the use of the environment, and in particular on this occasion we assess the care needs of all residents to make sure we can organise immediately the appropriate level of care for each individual. The assessments we’ve undertaken have all been done with consent of the care homes, and there is intended as a support mechanism for them. Not only do we hope that the mechanics of managing infection, the process of doing what we do is managed But we hope in some way to provide some emotional support for all our colleagues across houses health and social care. COVID-19 is scary, but managing together is less. So. Thank you.

David Ashford 8:17
Thank you, Dr. Garry. Thanks also to your team for all that you do a great demonstration of agile work across disciplines in this challenging time. As I mentioned in the statistics, we again today have no confirmed cases. This is of course, wonderful news. And it gives us plenty of cause for optimism. And it is not your source. The situation in the United Kingdom is steadily improving. They now appear to be past their peak and starting their exit. It was also encouraging to see that in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, there were no reported deaths yesterday. I know people will be absolutely tired I have me saying this. But we must not be complacent. Even though we now have so few active cases, we still have to assume for the, for the moment at least, that the virus is still present in our community. Why do I say this? Well, when we have conducted the contact tracing, after the last few confirmed cases, there have been no obvious link to another no one case. They have to have come from somewhere. It is not a miraculous contagion. We have to remember that a significant proportion of people who can track the virus only show very light symptoms that they may ignore, or write off as something else. Others can show no symptoms at all. This is why we need to keep focusing on the basics that have had such an impact, hand washing, and all the rest. And for the moment, at least, we have to ask you to keep Pure distance from others. Even as we try every day to give you back more of your lives, we continue to share with you the best guidance we can. Less and less of it will be laws, more and more. It will be guidance for you to make the decisions that best fit your circumstances. A great example of this is how our businesses are responding to the need for social distancing. Yesterday and Tim Wald, the Chief Minister laid down the challenge. He said the businesses and here we mean all businesses including office space, were best place to decide how to ensure they were providing a safe space for customers and their employees. We will lay out the standards and they can work out how to make their businesses fit this. I saw an excellent example yesterday of how we are working together to make this work. The Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce conducted a webinar for the hair and beauty sector on how to safely return to work. They were joined by the head of our business agency, and our Director of Public Health. For anyone that missed it. There is a recording of the webcast on the Chamber’s website. And I am grateful to the Chamber of Commerce for stepping up. This is the model we want to replicate more and more. We are not going to meddle. We will be there to support and advise and if necessary to step in and take action. If we feel companies are putting people’s health at risk. As we continue to step out of your lives, we need you to step up and take more responsibility. You will hear that more and more from us maybe as often as you hear baby steps from me and I will now take questions and first off today. I’ve got Paul from mctv. Paul, thank you, Minister, I need to take you back to Tim Ward yesterday and the emergency powers discussed by Mr. Boots. I think it was number eight on the list. You obviously quite aware that one of the Council of Ministers voted against the proposal for emergency powers to be extended as far as planning. And I need you to confirm as far as I read everything that that is against the Council of Ministers rules, and Mr. Thomas will have to be removed. Your comments, please? Well, I’m not going to speculate on things in relation to that Paul, and members assembled. Obviously, there’s a government code that applies to all ministers, myself included that where something is agreed to Council of Ministers, we have a debate there we have a vote there and then collective responsibility applies. There are certain exceptions to that, which is where pre declared position has a pre declared position or which appears in their Manifesto. So in relation to that, that matter between obviously the Chief Minister and the relevant ministers, it’s not something myself as Minister for Health will be involved in. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time that there’s been this sort of conflict or I understand there has been conflict. So if this is as it stands, if this is what you know, is gone on, will Mr. Thomas have to stand down? Well, that’s not for me to answer, Paul, I’m not wrong. I’m the Minister for health and social care. In terms of ministerial, the old famous phrase, Paul first amongst equals, the first amongst equals is the chief minister, the rest of us at a ministerial level are all equal. So I’m not privy to anything more than any other minister is how what how the government code is interpreted and applied in terms of ministers, and who is in a ministerial team at any one time is a matter for the chief minister. And so I’m not privy to anything more than the new guys are in that regard. I don’t know if Mr. Thomas had a pre declared position if that position has been agreed with the chief minister beforehand. I Wouldn’t be privy to those discussions. Okay, just to finish them. would you expect achievements or clarify this? As soon as you can, what is going on? I would I would suspect So now that you’ve raised the question, I would expect that it will be clarified.

Unknown Speaker 14:13
Okay. Thank you.

David Ashford 14:17
Okay, next up, I’ve got some Alabama newspapers

Unknown Speaker 14:22
ratted me, Mr. m, with the extension of tests being available to frontline services? We’ve heard throughout this that our teachers are of course on the front line. Why is it not been extended to them and to their nursery school colleagues?

David Ashford 14:35
Well, actually, Sam, at the moment, of course, the schools are only operating around the hub system. And as we move towards the schools doing their gradual reopening, that is one of the things I’m very keen to see it extended to, and I’ve actually had conversations within DHS see this morning. Am I beginning to wonder sometimes with questions if you have my office booked, and you always seem to manage to pick up on questions I’ve discussed that day, and but I have actually I have actually been discussing that before. Morning as to how we can use any extended capacity, we started the expanse of testing of key workers last Wednesday. And what we needed to see was how much of our demand that filled up, because what we don’t want to do is over promise and under deliver, particularly in terms of testing. We know the on Island test centre has 200 a day capacity to be able to process and we needed to see if we got a sudden surge of foot line workers in the other areas wanted to take this testing, bearing in mind, it’s not a one off test, we’re offering that on a weekly basis. We need to be certain we weren’t offering it out further and then disappointing people by going back and saying actually, because the demand has risen, we are not going to have the capacity, but there is still capacity in the system. And that is certainly from my point of view. The next thing I want to have looked at to be offering it to those teachers and nursery workers who are on the foot line with our children.

Unknown Speaker 15:56
And just Secondly, I know we return off into the sun attractive the border. But as you said, we’ve had a good style week of no pot no positive confirmation tests at least. And we’ve had the on demand recording. No, that’s over 24 hours the UK and then levels dropping as well. And at what point will this return to the agenda for the council minister, so look out wherever we do, perhaps open towards Ireland or open towards Great Britain?

David Ashford 16:21
Well, all policies and that includes borders are reviewed on a fortnightly basis. I do have to say before people get excitable, I think borders is a long way off, as the chief minister keeps mentioning at these press conferences, and it’s going to be one of the last things that will be unwound. Because it has given us a great degree of protection, it most certainly has contributed to suppressing the virus on islands. And what we don’t want to do is get into a false sense of security, and then end up with any form of second wave coming in, because that would undo all the hard work that the man’s poor man’s public of dawn to date, and I certainly as Minister for Health don’t want to see that. So I Notice frustrations and people who want to be able to come and see their loved ones in other countries. I fully recognise that. But one of the greatest tools we have in our arsenal is that border control. And it’s important that we keep using that tool while it’s necessary. There are positive signs coming out of the UK. Clearly from the current data, it appears that past their peak, and they’re coming down the other end. And obviously, it’s great news with the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland, not recording any debts yesterday. But again, as I’ve always said, with our cases here, let’s not just focus on one point in time, let’s see what the longer term trend data says. And if we start seeing the longer term trend data like that from our neighbours, then obviously the situation is more of encouraging. But I go back to the point I’ve always said, which is border controls doesn’t just rest on what happens here on Island. It also rests on what’s happening in our near counterparts, and perhaps even slightly further afield. Next up, of course, Alex say

Unknown Speaker 18:02
hello, Minister. And just to return to the case the cluster Abbotsford if you please, can you give us any update regarding the current numbers of positive cases among former residents there and indeed how many former residents have now been rehabbed?

David Ashford 18:19
So in terms of in terms of numbers of active cases amongst Abbot wards residents, I believe there’s currently two and there was only two remaining who are active now. And in terms of residents being re honed, we are active that process has started. And I believe roughly between six and 10 have now already been re homed, and there is more BMB we honed over the remainder of this week. I’ve had a In fact, I was contacted by a family of someone who’s been re homed earlier this week, to thank the Department for the work that they’ve done and and in getting them rehome done that The couple have settled very well which was very heartening to hear because it has been a disruptive process. As I said, the ideal solution would have been for residents to stay where they were that couldn’t happen. So we do recognise it is a traumatic time for people having to relocate, particularly in that age group.

Unknown Speaker 19:16
Yes, I think we might, we might have spoken to the same family there. Actually, it was positive to hear that. And just to just to clarify on that you mentioned there are two active cases of those two in hospital currently.

David Ashford 19:27
So the two active cases are not in hospital as far as I’m aware. I think they’re within the Newlands area. But they are but they are currently still active. But I believe in a couple of days, they should be free of the vibes.

Unknown Speaker 19:42
Thank you. And can I ask a question of Dr. Gary, please, of

David Ashford 19:45
course. Hello.

Unknown Speaker 19:51
Hello, Dr. Gary. And we’re some quite quite concerning news, which I’m sure you’ve seen from the Royal College of psychiatrists and UK today that suicide attempts by elderly people may have increased sharply during the Coronavirus crisis. What support options are on hand from the HSE, especially psychiatric and psychological health for elderly people who haven’t been directly affected by COVID-19, but as a result of the lockdown whose mental health is suffered,

Unknown Speaker 20:24
I’m going to be totally honest. We’re not sure I’ve got the the knowledge of that service to be able to speak directly to it. The minister believes he cannot some of those questions for you.

Unknown Speaker 20:33
That’s fine. Thank you.

David Ashford 20:36
Thank you. Thank you, Alex. That’s probably a bit far out of Dr. Gary’s remit. And it’s more more probably better place to answer that. And one of the things it’s very concerning figure that’s been seen in the UK most definitely I’ve seen those reports. But one of the things we’ve got to remember is that the UK was in lockdown for a substantially longer period of time than we were we’ve moved into a stay safe phase. One of the things we’ve also been doing is continuing with our online mental health checks for those that are in the vulnerable category. They have been a regular contact from the department with guidance that has been welfare checks for those who we know, are the real most vulnerable in the society that we’ve identified. Things that to be perfectly honest on the size and scale of the UK, they haven’t been able to undertake. So people have been left without any form of support mechanism. So we have been doing those regular welfare checks. And thankfully, we haven’t seen that spike in the way that the UK has in those very tragic circumstances. But I think also, like I say, as I said, at the very start, you’ve got to appreciate the UK was in lockdown for a substantially longer period than us where people really were isolated in their communities or their support networks gone. And that is why we were very clear from the very start of this that we wanted lockdown to be a shorter period as possible to move into a stay safe phase where we are now so that people could still get that help and support.

Unknown Speaker 22:06
Thank you very much.

David Ashford 22:08
Okay, next up, I’ve got Rob from three FM.

Unknown Speaker 22:12
Good afternoon, Minister. My first question again. So let’s come back to the points of borders. And I know I know, it’s been mentioned plenty of times, it could be for the foreseeable future, that they’re closed and that there are no specific dates regarding it. I just wonder if you could give us an idea, though, of when that take what is the threshold in terms of the lights of cases or whichever, in which you could start to consider and not necessarily do it on a particular day, but start, consider that points figures as it were,

David Ashford 22:42
to be perfectly honest and blunt with you. It’d be like trying to guess the number on a roulette wheel. Because it is there is so many different variables. So you may have a situation where the Ireland as now is very, very low in cases or with no cases at all. You could see the UK you See a second wave of the virus, in which case the situation will change if the UK continues on its downward trajectory. And the same is happening in the Republic of Ireland on the other side as well. There’s various options that can be looked at. And the one of the questions that was raised with the chief minister last week at the press conference was around averages. I think at one of the briefings, I explained, they come with their own problems, because you’ve got people who would be able to use an average to go both ways. It’s not just a one way street out, it allows people in so there’s too many factors to be able to put any firm date on, but the sort of things you would be looking at his low instances of transmission in the UK, low incidences of transmission in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, and obviously, a real low level of transmission and risk here in the armed community. So if all three of those slots together, nicely at the same time, then that’s something we can look at. But we do have to be aware that when you know it’s got to be done. Risk profiled way. So again, the changes with borders are likely to be in a staged process. So we’re not going to go from borders locked down to borders open the next day, it is more likely that there will be a stage process of certain things being turned on in a gradual way.

Unknown Speaker 24:19
Thank you. My second question is either to yourself or Dr. Gary who may be in first position. So answer. Obviously, the priority has been to protect our older residents from COVID-19. But there are many elderly residents out there who will have other things they are dependent on in terms of medication or therapies, what has been available and what will continue to be available at the moment for them outside of protecting them from COVID-19.

David Ashford 24:42
And I think that’s probably more for me than Dr. Gary. Yes, and Dr. Gary gu agrees with me and in relation to the medication. And in relation to medication. We have tried wherever possible to continue to supply medication to those vulnerable in the community, some Johns ambulance system and others. absolutely excellent service, engaging with the with the community dispensary’s to be able to get that medication to people. And so those who can’t go out and collect it themselves in the pharmacies, that has been a full delivery service in place, again, something we’ve been lucky to be able to put in place being a small island in terms of therapies and so on, as you know, quite a few services that the HSE deliver have had to be turned off, and in order for us to do our COVID-19 response, but as I announced on Friday, we now have a back to health programme, where we are on to weekly basis starting to turn those services back on, so more and more therapies are becoming available. I’ve already made announcements around chiropractors, and those sorts of serve auxiliary services. And so we are driving forward on that, but it was necessary when we needed the full front line response. And it’s easy to forget now that at one point, our caseload was actually quite high from COVID-19 we We’re actually seeing increasing numbers of cases. And at that point, we needed to have more stuff on the front line there and it didn’t mean suspend services. But we are now at the point where services are starting to slowly turn back on

Unknown Speaker 26:11
it. Okay.

David Ashford 26:13
And then last stop. She’s waited patiently. I’ve got Amanda, from Jeff, the mungus. Minister.

Amanda Cashmore 26:19
My first question is either for you or doctor, I’m not sure whose best place to answer it. But I wanted to build on Alex’s question. Are there any other specific illnesses or problems you believe in? are emerging elderly people on the island as a result of COVID-19 measures such as shielding? And are you seeing a general negative impact on older people’s well being and health since restrictions have been put in place? And in

David Ashford 26:39
turn, well, if I can answer first then I’ll bring Dr. Gary in in case he wants to expand on it. In relation to the negative experience. Obviously, there are some people who have been shielding who are shielding on their own psychologically, you know, that means they have been divided off from family and I know we’ve been keeping a very close eye on quite a lot of people who will We believe to be in a really vulnerable category with welfare checks and calls to make sure that they’re okay. Speaking to the mental health services, we haven’t seen that deterioration thankfully, of things coming through. And people, a lot of people who were shielding, I’ve spoken to quite a few, particularly in the older age group, and that have come back and said to me, that even if the government advice wasn’t a shield, they probably won’t anyway, because at the moment, they don’t feel comfortable in going out and having that wider community engagement. And that’s perfectly all right, that you know, the whole thing with this process is we are going to be asking people to take decisions themselves, we’ll issue advice and guidance, where people have to do what’s right for them. With the advice around people shielding is in the process of being updated. And I can confirm and I’m happy to confirm right here and now. We will be writing out again next week to all of those shielding with updated advice. But obviously, one of the other things that’s impacted the elderly population is the turning off of our some of our services, elective surgery, for instance. So I know of people who have been waiting for hip operations, obviously, that that’s been pushed back. And that’s something that can cause pain for them. And make make things difficult and we fully appreciate that. And that is why we are so keen to start in a managed medical way, getting our services back up and running. So we can return as many services to as close as normal as we possibly can in a shorter period of time as possible while still doing it in a medically safe way. And I’ll bring Dr. Gary in in case you want to say anything.

Unknown Speaker 28:39
Hello, the

Unknown Speaker 28:41
reference agreeing and not talking, not talking about the the service that have been turned on or turned off. I was gonna say one thing, which was quite heartfelt to me is that I think one of the greatest problems with COVID has been fear. And actually sometimes fear stops people doing what they would normally do under normal circumstances. So the fear of the hospital for some people has been very great and some LD people haven’t come to the hospital for fear of catching covered in hospital. And that’s worried me deeply because actually my day job most of the time for the last quite a few weeks and months has been looking after the business as usual wards, the cold side the hospital where it’s non covered. So it is more of a play really for people if they do have issues that need to be sorted out. Please don’t delay come to the hospital. We still been doing the calls we building the rotors, I still been looking after everyone that comes in seeing people on regular basis. And I really don’t want people to miss out on business as usual that we are delivering all the time. So it’s more of a plea to everyone to actually please still do seek help when you need it. And don’t miss out on good quality care.

David Ashford 29:45
And can I echo that play as well. It’s something I raised a few weeks ago here at the this press conference. Those services that have resumed, they are resumed in a medically safe way. And I really, really would urge people that if they are in If they do need treatment, they should still seek support and help as they would do in normal circumstances. It is crucial that people don’t just sit on things and actually think that they’re, you know, leave things to deteriorate. So I would echo that play, please if you do need help and support, contact the services available.

Unknown Speaker 30:22
And secondly, we know that contact tracing is hugely important in tackling COVID-19. But are you concerned that if people have broken the guidance, they will not tell traces the truth and will there be any repercussions as someone is found to be lying about their contacts,

David Ashford 30:36
in terms of contact tracing, we are very clear with people if they have broken the rules, we are not interested in finding that out to report them to some other authority. What we are interested with contact tracing is finding out who the person has been touched with and killing the chain of this virus. That is our primary concern with contact tracing. We make absolutely clear to people that you know if they are honest with us and they have broken certain rules, we are not going to go running off and immediately report them for that. We actually want to just hear the truth so that we can kill the chain of the virus, anything people tell the contact tracing team is done in complete and utter confidence. That is all we are concerned with. We are not concerned about what that person was doing on the Friday night, Saturday night, whether they were bending the rules. We are just interested in finding out who they’ve been in touch with and in contact with so that we can make sure there isn’t any further community spread. As I said, you know, there has been a couple of cases of what appear to be a macula contagion, where it’s come absolutely out of nowhere. But but we would, I would urge people that if they do test positive than they really, really should be honest with contact racing team.

Unknown Speaker 31:52
Thank you very much.

David Ashford 31:56
Well, thank you very much to our media partners for taking part again today. Turning now to some shoutouts firstly from Kaylee from cranker Berry hub school has been nominated by a number of colleagues for her tireless work to support teachers, parents and pupils in accessing online learning. Fran has gone above and beyond in ensuring a smooth transition to support students with learning from home and has offered support to colleagues across the island. Second, we’ve had a request from a number of teachers for a thank you to the cleaning and caretaking staff across the islands hope schools. The nomination says we couldn’t teach if these dedicated colleagues didn’t provide safe clean spaces for us and the children. Third, Alan’s Alison and Steve Taylor. Were on the drop in charity shops and renew well being groups in Ramsey and jurby. They’ve been busy baking goodies and making cards which they drop off socially distance to course, are people’s homes. The person may In the nominations phase, I’ve had homemade shortbread scones with jam and cream and brownies delivered or were made at Allison and Steve’s own expense which they deliver around the north of the island. It’s the little things like this that really make a difference. And it is very much appreciated. They don’t make a big force. They just decided to do something for our community. obion Well, the chief minister will be back with you tomorrow to brief you on COVID related discussions at the Council of Ministers. Until then, please keep doing what you have been doing so well. It is making a huge difference. make the right decisions for you, your family, your violent and stay safe. Okay.

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