This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government Press Conference conducted on 28 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.
Howard Quayle 0:04
Well, good afternoon, everyone. Let’s start this evenings briefing briefing with the health and social care minister bringing us today’s numbers. I know the minister also wants to update you on some testing related news, David.
David Ashford 0:20
Thank you, Chief Minister just before I do today’s numbers. Yesterday at the press conference, I spoke about how we’re expanding our testing to key workers who will be able to get a weekly test. I’m delighted to be able to say that after assessing our capacity to the list of key workers, we’re going to be able to add teachers, so teachers will be able to join in with that and have the weekly COVID-19 PCR test should they so desire. Turning to the numbers today, the total number of tests undertaken now stands at 4732. The total test results returned is 4730. Which means we have 29 results outstanding. The total number of positive cases identified remains at 336. With no further new cases. And in terms of active cases, we now stand at three. I’m also delighted to be able to say that we have hit another milestone in the fact that we have no covert positive cases in the hospital as of today. Thank you, Chief Minister. Well,
Howard Quayle 1:32
thank you very much, David. That really is excellent news isn’t in our stay safe roadmap document that was endorsed by timbal. On the fifth of May, we described how we would approach decision making through this pandemic. We of course, want to do what is best for the island, balancing some really tricky issues. We had to balance covert challenges that we understood so little about with the needs of our people, our society. And our economy. And I have said so often, I think that as an island community, we have done incredibly well. We went in hard at the start and hammered those curves. We are doing some work to publish a new range of reports and charts. I know for so much, it’s been reassuring to see that green line that bubbles along the bottom. You made that happen. We are now in a place where we are gradually changing those measures we had to use at the start. every meeting of the Council of Ministers now is considering how much further we can go to give you your lives back how much further we can go in the journey towards our new normal. I know that for some of you that you have found it frustrating. You want us to move faster. I get that some of you are still worried about the virus and are not yet ready to make big changes. I get that too. But I have to tell you, I’m delighted that our toughest challenge At the moment is about how we can best step out of your lives. When this virus first came to our island, I had prepared myself for an altogether more bloody battle. As I told Tim will this week, I will never forget the lives that have been lost on our island. We have mourned too much. But after some dark days, I do think I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is still some way off, but it is there. I have talked here about game changes. The ultimate Game Changer will of course be a vaccine. But despite a global campaign, this still seems a long way off. And we cannot bank on that coming in anytime soon. Another game changer could be the antibody testing on like the vaccine. This is with us now. And because of some excellent work by the department of health and social care, we are close to be close to being able to start our on Island tests. programme. The Council of Ministers today endorsed a testing strategy put to us by the department of health and social care. And I know that the minister will make detailed announcements about this as soon as possible. But as I said in timbal this week, I will not allow us to see it will not allow us to see everything and know everything. Yes, it will allow us to know if a person has had the virus. But there is no global agreement as to whether someone who has recovered from the virus is immune forever, for a while or at all. But the antibody testing will change our understanding of the virus on the island. Back to the stay safe roadmap, what we have tried to do is make changes in fortnightly cycles. This is so that we can see any effect and assess if it is safe to move on to the next steps. Do you remember all the way back if Seems like an eternity ago. On that day we started our stay safe plan. With its phase one. We brought back construction trades and horticulture. We also allowed some sports to resume. There was no impact on the number of confirmed cases that we could link to these changes. Two weeks later, on the seventh of May, we moved into phase two, we laid out the pathway for our retail sector, our services and our non essential health care to start to return. Some of this took a while to come fully online, retail on the 18th of May, for example, and some businesses have decided they’re not yet ready. But I’m pleased how this is going so far. And most importantly, again, there was no impact on the number of cases that we could link to these changes. Then another two weeks later, on the 21st of May, we started phase three. This included giving the green lights to a number of things sectors from the first of June, including outdoor dining, the beauty and hair sector, self catering, accommodation, and more besides. In parallel, of course, we have been able to make announcements about our schools reopening. And I know that schools are now at an advanced stage of preparation to welcome our children back in a phased and safe way.
There are two things from today’s Council of Ministers that I wanted to share with you. There are a couple of changes that we’ve decided today. Now given the huge changes we announced last week. The changes we agreed today are more modest, but important. Firstly, we have agreed in principle that we should explore ways to allow our returning residents to do so through air routes if they need to, or to safer to do so. We will also consider allowing them to isolate in a shared house provided everyone else in that house is also prepared to go into self isolation. We have asked for this detail to be finalised so that we can communicate how this will work next week. And we expect these changes to be live no later than the 11th of June. Secondly, giving the ongoing positive situation of our intensive care capacity. We have decided that with effect from the 15th of June, we will be increasing the island wide speed limit to 60 miles per hour. Now I’m fully aware that this is a subject that elicits strong emotions on the island. And I have been clear the limit we had in place was to mitigate the risk of our intensive care being put under pressure when it might have been needed to focus on COVID. I also need to be clear that I do not want to put in place long term legislation by the back door. This is an important matter that merits a full timbal debate and the ability to for the public to be able to offer their views. We will review no later than the end of June. In any case, as well as these decisions, we have now been able to start considering phase four and beyond. We wanted to give our teams and importantly give you an idea of what we hope to be making decisions on. When we come to the next two week review point, next Thursday, on the fourth of June. These will be changes that we would hope to bring in no later than the 15th of June can tell you that there is a high level of optimism at the Council of Ministers. When we look at all our key indicators, live cases, hospital capacity, pp stocks etc. We have every reason to be optimistic. Ministers agreed that we should accelerate our approach of removing restrictions as much as we possibly can to step out of you lives. This will include thinking about if we can make changes to social distancing. There are a range of other ways of doing it. In other countries. The World Health Organization’s guidance is maintain at least one metre. And personally I am attracted to the very pragmatic approach taken by New Zealand. On one hand, they advise to metres when you are out and about this is because you may be in the midst of people you don’t know, and where contact tracing, if needed would be tough. But they only talk about one metre distance when you’re in an environment like your home or school or restaurant or a church where contact tracing would be much easier. With risk at a pretty low level now, we want to consider where we can go on this. I hope to make some announcements early next week. We have asked for proposals to change the rules that limit gathering The 10 outside to inside rule to be ready for our meeting next Thursday. Ideally, I would like to gradually remove restrictions, including for large gatherings. We hope to make decisions on this next Thursday. Let’s see if our current great results continue. Today we have commissioned detailed proposals on the areas where we still have restrictions in place. Next Thursday, we will look to make decisions on the resumption of hotels and other similar accommodation gyms and indoor sporting venues. If the situation on the island remains as positive as it is today, we would hope to be able to allow those sectors to resume no later than the 15th of June. In the meantime, we will step up our work with those sectors, so that they have a clear understanding of what it will take to open safely.
So what will be left after that? Not much. We have already started conversations with the pub Bar and Nightclub sector. Some of them are already operating, including as takeaways, and some will be able to start operating from next week if they are able to offer outside dining. Today we discussed when we might be able to envisage pubs, bars, etc, to be able to operate more normally. Again, if we remain on top of the virus, we might be able to do so around the end of June or early July. This would then only leave the tricky issue of the border. There has been a certain amount of loose reporting about this over the last week or so. And I think it might be useful to put the record straight on this again. The Council of Ministers discussed borders today. We are in agreement that while at some stage, we do of course want and need the borders to open. We are certainly not there yet. And we won’t be for some time to come But when we do come to look at the border, it doesn’t need to be binary. It doesn’t have to be as simple as open or closed. I still believe that on hindered travel between the United Kingdom and our island is a long way off. But as the situation slowly improves in the United Kingdom, we have been able to do more for our returning residents and for new residents, those who are coming to live and work here. But truly compassionate cases in both directions. We may be able to go even further, if and when we start to see significant and sustained change in the United Kingdom. Until there is we need to exercise extreme caution. The last thing we would want to do is jeopardise the hard work that has got us to where we are today. A final point for me is around the emergency regulations. I’ve said on a number of occasions that these were These were not powers that I all my ministerial colleagues wanted to have. But I still believe that we needed them to move quickly and decisively in the best interest of the island, as I’ve said, and Tynwald, workers now under the advanced stage on a plan to take us out of emergency powers, and I will lay out my thinking intermode on Tuesday. I will now take questions on first I believe is Amanda from Jeff the mongoose Amanda.
Amanda Cashmore 13:31
It afternoon, Chief Minister, in light of your dismissal of Chris Thomas, some
of the public questioning whether collective responsibility is outdated and makes voting pointless, especially in these extraordinary times.
Does this process need to be reviewed? Are you considering a reshuffle?
And how long do you anticipate it’ll take you to choose another Minister for policy and reform?
Howard Quayle 13:50
Thank you. Well, I think the collective responsibility for people for the Council of Ministers has worked exceptionally well on Manage it’s been 40 years. years now that it’s been going on, effectively, we have nine ministers who all have different views. They’re all independence. And we agree as those nine that we will follow collective responsibility. So in any boardroom meeting, in any village institution, you will have a group of people who will sit and meet, a decision will be made, it will be voted on, and the majority decision wins. And that’s what goes forward to take policy forward. And that’s fairly straightforward and logical. Now there are exceptions to having to vote with the Council of Ministers, and those are made on moral issues. So for example, the divorce bill that’s going through at the moment, the legislation in the house of keys, all ministers have a free vote on that, because there’s not a council of ministers issue. It’s for you to make a decision on how you believe from a moral point of view, what should be done the same with parliamentary issues. And also if a minister has a prediction interest, and that’s in his manifesto or their or their Manifesto. And they can show that they’ve got this pre declared interest, they get permission from the chief minister, then they can vote against the Council of Ministers in trembled. So we try and be as reasonable as possible. But you have to have that basic rule that if you have not got an agreed pre declared interest, then you vote with the majority decision now 90% of the time Council of Ministers decisions are unanimous, but occasionally we’ll have a seven two or occasionally a five, four. But members stick to that because that’s how you, you have collective responsibility. That’s how you get decisions made and get on with things. And, sadly, Minister Thomas disagreed. He was in a small minority. And he said he was going to vote against he was advised in writing that he didn’t have permission because he didn’t have a pre declared interest. He decided to carry on and vote against his colleagues, which is an automatic dismissal. So effectively, he resigned, I just went through the motions yesterday of sacking him because by voting against him breaking the ministerial code, I had no option but to dismiss them. So it’s sad. Chris was a hard working member of the team. But it was a decision he made. He had walked out on an earlier setting on the border closure, which was disappointing not to support his colleagues. And I felt that if you have a rule, it’s there. for everyone. It was clearly broken. There was no mistake made, he was advised in writing by email, and before the setting that he didn’t have permission. And sadly, we are where we are. So I regret it. I’m sad about it. But it’s still a very good way of operating a government which is throughout the world, the sort of decision and throughout the island on all sorts of community groups.
Amanda Cashmore 16:57
And are you considering a reshuffle and how long do you disappear I say take each season the Minister for policy reform.
Howard Quayle 17:03
Well, obviously it this only happened on on Tuesday on Tuesday, I will be bringing someone up to replace the minister, whether that’s a reshuffle or whether I’ll be putting a new member straight into the job. I’ll need to sleep on that for a couple of days. But obviously, I will put a press release out. Amanda once I’ve made that decision. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Now, Mr. Paul Moulton from Mt. TV, Paul, good afternoon, he may set
Paul Moulton 17:27
a little goodie by link, did you just say it was 60 miles now you’re putting this speed limit up to?
Howard Quayle 17:33
Yes, well, well, where there’s no speed limit, Paul. So at the moment, you’ve got 20, you’ve got 30s 40s 50s, but where there’s no speed limit. So for example, on the mountain, you can go up to 60 miles per hour, or that’s on the 15th of June. It’s not from today. It’s from the 15th. What we try and do is as we’ve learned, instead of making sudden announcements that happen straight away. We’re trying an awful lot of the information is for information on the front 15th of June, we’re trying to give businesses our thinking, so the social distancing rules, etc. We’re trying to help businesses plan. So instead of just getting a couple of days notice that they can open. And these are the rules. Today, we’re trying to share our thoughts with you all about where we see this going on what we’re discussing at the moment, so that as long as the data still supports us making those decisions, it shouldn’t be a surprise to those businesses in a couple of weeks time to be able to open with the set of rules in place. All right, but really my question is the thinking behind that. I mean, there’s very few 60 mile and that’s areas anyway, so you’ve got your 50s and you’ve got your D restricted so why
Paul Moulton 18:42
this halfway house because it can’t now be on the road safety is your sort of main reasoning, is it? I mean, is this still and part two this is I still get whispers pretty good. Some of my contacts is still looking at a back way of making some sort of speed limit, excluding the mountain row was Couldn’t be like 60 or something the future I know you’ve been here saying before, it’s not gonna happen. But I’d like to hear you just give me a bit more.
Howard Quayle 19:07
Well, how many times can I say it but I’ve said just now that I will not allow emergency legislation to be used to bring in strategic changes to the Ireland way of life effectively via the back door. I’m not saying a speed limits won’t happen in the future, but that will be for Tim world to decide. based on feedback from the Manx public with separate legislation. We bring in the Coronavirus emergency legislation based on the 1936 emergency Powers Act, that is to fight or help us fight our battle against Coronavirus. And I think it would be wrong if the Council of Ministers used that legislation to make long term strategic changes to the way that the people of the Isle of Man lived their lives. Now I have to say that I am starting to be inundated by a number by people and the vast majority of people Feel that they like the 40 miles an hour speed limit. And that may well be the case, but we cannot use emergency legislation to do that. And therefore I’ve said time and time again, we will not, we will remove it eventually. And then it will be up to templed and the Manx public with consultation to decide if they want to have this type of restriction brought in at some stage in the future. All right, and that’s exactly what
Paul Moulton 20:29
I was trying to get to. I wasn’t suggesting to the emergency powers, but you are now actively potentially thinking there could be a change. And a supplementary to that. Would the council of ministers have a free reign to vote as they wish or would do that be yet again, an example of council ministers doing a block vote on whatever the decision might be in front of timbal?
Howard Quayle 20:48
Well, we’ve decided at the time, it’ll depend on what the recommendations are what the public have to say, but don’t put my words into my mouth. Paul, I’m not saying it will happen. I’m just saying that if it were to happen, it would be By timbal, having a full debate with the public having a consultation, it is not for the Council of Ministers, in my opinion and the Council of Ministers agree with me to use emergency legislation. So if politicians are lobbied by the public and then we go out for consultation, and the feedback comes in support that the public wants us to make changes, then of course, Tim mould, not myself, Tim will will decide the way forward. So what I’m just trying to lay down is that we will not allow emergency legislation to continue to bring in policy via the backdoor. I think that would be totally unfair. We use these powers to fight Coronavirus not to suddenly spring changes on lives of people via a secret route. It’s there in black and whites to protect the people from the virus. Okay, okay.
Paul Moulton 21:50
Part Two. Now my question is, you talk about get the stage with pubs, bars, whatever might be opening I don’t know you mentioned gyms and access to a key Of course, but that was By automatically bring the social distancing down to maybe a metre by the very nature of going into bars or whatever, can you save two more days that will be the case as well being that you are making this change in some time in June, I think was
Howard Quayle 22:14
July I said for bars maybe at the end of June, early July. So I’m not giving exact dates I said hopefully by the 15th. For some of these areas we’re looking at when our children go back to school, trying to get a child to stick to two metre distancing is going to be pretty impossible and given the fact that they’re in a school where tracing we know who’s there so I gave New Zealand as an example. They do a metre in schools, churches, and gatherings and family homes because you know, if you suddenly get ill who’s been there you can you’ve got proper tracing was if you’re out and about walking in the street, etc. You could bump into someone and you don’t know who they are and then if you caught something you wouldn’t be able to Do the tracing of that person. So, we’ve looked at how New Zealand have done I’ve looked at how several several other countries have done the distancing and the who recommend a minimum of one metre, up to two metres. We went down the two metre route that was right at the time. I think we now need to say, Well, what is the way forward going forward? We’re trying to make people’s lives as easy as possible to live the new normal with the Coronavirus. So, this is something that we’re looking at Paul.
Paul Moulton 23:32
And so just James just as a thrower they were they on your list yet? Jim’s?
Howard Quayle 23:36
Yes, they were honest. Yeah. And indoor, no gym. We mentioned that gyms and indoor sport areas. We were looking at with a possibility in two three weeks time. Okay, right. Next we have Jess Ward from Isle of Man newspapers, Jess. Good afternoon. Again,
Jess Ward 23:54
cc. Okay, I speak to the health minister, please.
Howard Quayle 23:57
Yeah, no problem at all, David
David Ashford 24:02
Good afternoon. Yes.
Jess Ward 24:04
Good afternoon. And so you’ve given us the great news that we’ve now had zero cases in over a week. But also with no no longer got any positive coverage COVID positive patients in hospital and wondering how is the government planning on letting redeployed medical staff who work in the COVID wards back to their original posts,
David Ashford 24:25
so as I announced last Friday are back to health plan allows for services to start being turned back on. And while it’s very positive news, I’m going to do my usual thing and say, let’s not be complacent about things. It’s a great position to be in. But what we’ve got to do is now in a gradual process start redeploying stuff back so we can turn on existing server services that were turned off, and we’ve started that process this week. But we do still need to keep a covert contingency as I would say. So we still have to have a covert response there. Being case there is any further admissions in the future. So that process has already started. And if people go online, they will see the back to health documents. We are also working on a similar document for the for basically the social care side of it, and the back to care document I should be able to announce next week.
Jess Ward 25:19
Thank you. And I’ve got another question for you too. So as we all know, COVID-19 has changed our daily lives and work environment environments quite a lot. I’m just looking at the future of nursing homes and how is the virus impacted the government’s plans for those institutions and to ensure the safety of its users?
David Ashford 25:39
Well, the word the nursing homes have worked very, very well with us. In terms of infection prevention. The nursing homes have always been very strict around infection control anyway, because of the type of environment that they’re in. So obviously, if they get outbreaks of things like winter influenza in a nursing home, that can be quite serious as well. So a lot of them structures were already there. And I think the key thing is being communication. We’ve worked together with nursing homes to get access to the PPA, and we’ve given them guidance along the way. And that will continue. And and it was in place for the things like winter influenza beforehand. And that process will continue as normal.
Jess Ward 26:20
Are we going to see any drastic changes maybe in architectural structures or any planning processes? Do you think?
David Ashford 26:27
No, in terms of nursing homes, obviously, one of the things they’ve struggled with, and particularly is those residents that are immobile. And sometimes the dining rooms and the nursing homes haven’t allowed for social distancing. So they’ve had to do stage dining, and both that, you know, that’s something that will be around for as long as there’s a risk from covert and bought in terms of nursing homes and the way they operate. Like I say that they’ll be very much focused on Infection Control and Prevention. So that will not radically change from what was there already.
Jess Ward 27:00
Thank you very much.
Howard Quayle 27:05
Thanks very much, Jess. Nice to see you again. Next we have Alex Bell from the BBC. Alex. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Alex Bell 27:12
And just touch on a point you made you made before to outline those plans to bring returning residents home by air. And is this viable how many residents are currently left to return to the map?
Howard Quayle 27:27
Well, we have a number of residents overseas Alex, some of them have been trapped in the jurisdictions in India, for example, where they haven’t been physically allowed to go to an airport to get back. So it may well be that they fly in to London. And at the moment, they’ve got a call go through the country to get to Haitian and if now that we know our stats, we know that the hospital has no one in there with with the COVID illness, we can we can come up with procedures that are safe for the people of Our man then we feel that we can allow those people to come off a plane, say at Heathrow, do a change and fly from from Heathrow to the island. And that would be a safer way than then potentially having to currently go through the rest of the United Kingdom. But obviously, we wanted to make sure that we could put procedures in place to make sure that when they come to the island there are checks to make sure they know they have to go straight home self isolate all the rules and regulations and that they can be monitored and and their health checked via phone calls, etc. So you need to make sure you can put in a sensible set of precautions to a protect them and be to protect the people already on the Isle of Man. So we have I’ve said all along as we go along. It’s all about we went in hard to flatten the curve. We did that. And now we’re slowly where we’ve got the evidence to that enables us to do that loosening restrictions to make it easier for people to come to the island, but still making sure that There is the protection there for the people of the Isle of Man to ensure that we don’t get a second wave by people unintentionally bringing the illness back onto the island. The reason I ask is because it was last week that EasyJet and then they were going to restart or potentially restart routes between Liverpool the other man and London Gatwick and the other man as this anything to do with that? No it’s just timing I mean Logan, Edwin mentions EasyJet but Logan there have been operating flights between the Isle of Man for quite some time now. Hardly anyone on them because of the restrictions but they have been operating those flights, EasyJet metre, they didn’t make it just for the Isle of Man, they made it for that all of the United Kingdom. And we are at a position now where as the Health Minister has just given you incredibly good figures on the number of active cases on the Isle of Man three, that we and that we have the contact tracing team in place on all the other areas where We’re seeing the 111 numbers write down that we can now say to our teams, let’s work on a repatriation scheme that now allows flights to come in to the island for the repatriation. So we’re not talking about hundreds of people all flying back in and the next few days, we’re talking about allowing people who may be flown into London, the safest way to get them back is the Isle of Man. And we now have the capacity to allow that to happen in the very near future.
Alex Bell 30:29
Okay, and just to just to touch on another point, please from Monday, I know restaurants and cafes, with outdoor seating can open again. When this was announced, I think it was suggested that businesses who who met these requirements or maybe just slightly fell below them might be given some help to adapt to meet them. As any of this help been given out and how many businesses have claimed support in this way?
Howard Quayle 30:53
I’d have to get that information for you, Alex. That’s the Department for enterprise would deal with the advice to businesses. But obviously we’re working with them. We’ve tried to be as helpful as possible by discussing the two metre. thoughts that it might go from two metres to one for our schools, maybe for when you’re when you’re in a restaurant for for work, because you can do the tracing of those peoples from your from your businesses. But these are decisions that haven’t been made yet. They haven’t been agreed. This is just what we’re currently working on. And we’ve announced it maybe earlier than we have in the past sort of changes to give businesses as much sort of forward planning time as possible. So that so they are as well prepared as possible. Thank you. Thank you very much, Alex. And last but not least, we have Leon from three FM Good afternoon.
Unknown Speaker 31:48
My first question, and it’s just about car Sherry. And we’ve had a few queries as to people looking for a bit more clarity as to why it isn’t permitted. Just as they’re able to To ride on the bus or take a taxi journey, or even go inside someone’s home.
Howard Quayle 32:05
Yeah, it’s a good point. And funnily enough, I was down in Ramsay at the weekend, and a young lady stopped me and asked me that very same question. And it’s something that the council of ministers are looking at. Obviously, if you’re if you’re sitting in the front seat of a car, with a person next to you, you’re only a matter of inches. If you’re a foot away from that person, then you’re going to struggle now, there is an argument that you know who that person is. So from a contract tracing point of view, it might be possible. I went into my parents house at the weekend, but I still kept my distance. I kept more distance than I would have had gotten in the car with them. So this is something that we are looking at Leann? And we will be giving an update within the week on car sharing.
Unknown Speaker 32:51
Okay, thank you. And my second question is for the health minister, please.
Unknown Speaker 32:54
Okay. David. Thank you.
David Ashford 33:01
Unknown Speaker 33:03
guesstimating minister, like Jess already touched upon. Obviously you’ve mentioned there are now only three active cases and no COVID positive cases in the hospital, which is obviously great news. My question is just everyone that attends nobles hospital. Are they still being tested for private mighty?
David Ashford 33:20
Yes, anyone who attends and has a bit of hospital is tested, and that will continue to take place.
Unknown Speaker 33:27
Okay, thank you.
Howard Quayle 33:32
No, I think if memory serves a crap minister Skelly is with you tomorrow. So Alex, your, I think was your question on support or advice for businesses that are trying to get back? Well, you know, we’ll, I’m sure he’ll be able to give you the latest update on on those figures. So thank you very much. Right. I think we’ve had a good good hits here now. Thank you all very much. But we are getting there. Let’s put our best foot forward. Please keep safe and keep your loved one safe. Remember the basics, keep your distance, respect other people’s space, and the future is in your hands. Thank you all very, very much. Bye bye