This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government Press Conference conducted on 29 May 2020.
You should not rely upon it — it is transcribed by an automated speech recognition service, and I cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any Manx Gaelic words are very inaccurate.
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.
Laurence Skelly 0:00
Faster. Hi Irina Sara. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. If I may give you the the latest statistics from our good hard work and friends at Department of Health and Social Care. The total number of tests undertaken is 4767. We have had 4756 tests return which means we got 11 outstanding. There are 336 confirmed cases and the meaning of that today, we have no new cases, total active cases is three. And I have another update here from the department of health and social care. As well as providing an update on the testing results. We’ve been asked to pass a message regarding dentists. I know this is on a lot of people’s minds. We have received a number of queries on this difficult subject, particularly for those who require emergency dental work. patient needs in this circumstance can be urgent however, it is clearly very hard to deliver these services. Whilst adhering to a social distance guidance, department for health and social care continues to work with all dentists and the islands Dental Association towards the resumption of these services. A standard operating procedure to reopen all practices has been approved in principle, but there will be finalised next week along with quality assurance visits and discussions on the use of PGP and infection control which department of health and social care with undertake we will look to issue further advice and guidance as soon as we can. But until this time, we ask that residents continue to contact the emergency dental number four any treatments.
Unknown Speaker 1:40
So with that, I just would like to say
Laurence Skelly 1:44
welcome to TT week. It’s starting tomorrow, and I know many of the fans around the world are going to be dejected. Why because we have no TT. But what I can tell you is that we have entertainment for TT week. We have the T Lock in, which is going to feature the virtual TT eight days of entertainment starting next Saturday, Manx radio have their own programme of events which will be very exciting and in particular, I always look forward to Roy Moore’s motor memories. And there is also ITV for which we’ll be featuring races of the last decade. And what I’d like you to do is what I’m doing is to actually promote TT. Why? Because normally TT will generate 37 million pounds spend in our economy. Clearly, tourists are not here on our island. And that is an impact on our economy. So every pound that you’re going to spend on our island is going to be very valuable for all our local businesses, which is why we need you to spend as much as you can in our local economy. The local multiplier effect would estimate that one pound spent equals one pound 80 that goes around the economy. So many of you are returning to work, some of the officers returned to work this week. Next week, we have some lifestyle services returning to work. This is great news. And this is because of the confidence in the results that we’ve actually been portraying each day as we come forward here. So what we want to do now is build confidence, because now we’re coming out of lock lockdown, which was always going to be challenging, always going to be difficult, but we need you to have confidence to come out and to spend in our local economy. So Chief Minister talked yesterday about more work that we’re doing around social distancing. He mentioned New Zealand. I quite like the Danish model. And we are collating more data on this because we think that we can do more and provide guidance for you the public. So what I’d like to do at this particular point is also hi In lockdown, mental health. It’s been mentioned before we’ve had our clinicians talk about this. And the longer we’re in lockdown, the more mental health issues there are. And that’s why you and the Manx public have been so great to get to this particular point. But we must consider our neighbours must consider our community and that’s why as we do more particularly now with recreation, it’s been available and in particular now, for staycation opportunities. If you’re not going away on holiday, you have a staycation opportunity. campsites are open self catering is open, and please avail yourself of our beautiful island. We have many hundreds of miles of footpaths, we got beaches, we got glands we got more land to scour your island and share it and that’s what I meant with regards to this week TT week. We got outstanding weather which is a real shame for TT not being on however I want you to take pictures, I want you to actually share that on all your social media so that we can have a bounce back bumper year, next year. And with that in mind, we are now planning for the Super max bank holiday, which is coming up in August, which is the big four day. And there we want to really celebrate the banks in general. So, with that, I’d like to now take questions. And first up I have Chris Kay from energy FM pass the mic, Chris.
Tim Glover 5:32
Good afternoon, Minister Skelly. I like how you mentioned the importance of local businesses. Certain small business owners that I’ve spoken to, such as those who run salons have said that it’s not financially viable for them to open if they have to frequently deep clean, taking fewer clients and provide limited services due to social distancing, what plans are in place to ensure a number of small businesses won’t be forced to collapse if these measures continued
Laurence Skelly 6:00
There is continued support and is a choice but then to actually come back to work next week, and I know some of them aren’t going to delay that. And this is one of the reasons why we’re doing more work in terms of social distance in which you write the picture up on there, Chris, the World Health Organisation recommendation is, is one metre, for example. And we know that we of course, we do have our schools reopening on the 15th of June which is another key component of returning back to some normality because it’s, we recognise that some people are going back to work and industries being able to work if they choose to do so if it is safe, but we also recognise the importance of actually having children in school in order to do that. So this is all part of the the return back to some form of normality. Can you envisage the restrictions being eased considerably in the next few weeks and months? I mean, he talked to the situation in New Zealand, they’re now allowing gatherings of up to 100 people Is that something we can expect to see in the Isle of Man. And then in the next few weeks and months, we are taking small steps baby step baby steps as being being required. However, what we will say, given where we are what we are denying with no new cases. That’s great news. And I want to say once more, thank you to the max public, because it’s your cooperation that has enabled us to get to this particular point. And our hospital actually now is COVID. Free, which is, which is a remarkable achievement. So we are taking steady, measured approach and what we try to do in all cases is gather more evidence before we do actually make a decision, as Chief Minister stated, I think is next Thursday is our next major decision point.
Tim Glover 7:46
I mean, they’re the health ministers mentioned numerous times over the last few months, is his caution and taking these baby steps. Do you think though that could be of the detriment in the long run if we don’t act as a nation before fitting of our situation rather than that of jurisdiction a country which has been worst affected by Coronavirus. I mean those numbers today very, very encouraging once again,
Laurence Skelly 8:10
they are encouraging and yes, we are taking a very steady measured approach. Is that fair to say? But we have been first mover’s in certain cases, particularly with regards to recreation. And we’ve and I hope people are enjoying the having the 10 outside to inside at the moment as they can have more interaction, which is so go back to the point there with regards to mental health because that is becoming a growing issue. And I know my my other colleagues are getting quite a number of calls with regards to that particular issue. So I think we’re taking a good steady measured approach. And we look forward to next Thursday when hopefully we’ll be armed with more information be able to make a more substantive statement by Chief Minister. Thank you, Chris. Next is opposite assignment.
Unknown Speaker 9:02
Good afternoon minister. And Firstly, of course, backing up the good news, we’ve got the virus on the ropes, it seems after a fantastic effort by all concerned. Secondly, though, and following up on Chris’s theme, we now have a pretty huge and complex task of getting the economy back on track. businesses that have been allowed to reopen are finding significant problems with implementing the new safety measures and trying to coax sort of shell shocked public back into their old buying habits. We’ve seen the business support grants, we have the mirror scheme. But isn’t it the case that many more tailored government support schemes will be needed in the coming months to prevent dozens if not hundreds of SMEs from going out of business?
Laurence Skelly 9:49
Yeah, thank you for that, Simon. Yes, you’re talking about ongoing support, the more opportunities we have for industries to come back to work. That means that we can concentrate on those, we know I’ll go into have difficulty for a medium to longer term. In terms of schemes what I am encouraged by and I would like to highlight is we do have an adaptation scheme. We have had a number of applications already come through that as businesses are demonstrating their their real true innovation. I’ve been really very impressed with that I have to say in a host of different industries, and I’d recommend anyone who’s thinking about their business to come to us and talk to us about an adaptation scheme because that can be applied and we can process that. So, we do recognise there are certain sectors are going to struggle for some time and you write you the word you use their shell shocked public. And it gets back to the word that I like to use is we is about rebuilding confidence. So as they can actually go out and about in a relatively normal manner, with obviously the the guidance is in place, and do bear in mind those who we are allowed to go back to work. It’s only if they choose to do so if they feel it is safe to do so. And there is support mechanisms in place. Treasury minister just announced I think it was now two weeks ago with regards to the salary support schemes being extended right away through the summer, which I know is a comfort to to a number of businesses.
Unknown Speaker 11:21
Thank you, son. Thank you very much. Now, my second question, if the if the Isle of Man could, in fact declare itself Corona virus free, which now looks like a real possibility in the in the week or so ahead? Do you see opportunities for us to gain economic benefit from such a status? And if so, how?
Laurence Skelly 11:42
Yeah, good, very good question. And yes, we would like to think that we could, or we will be we’re very well positioned to take advantage of that. And one of the things that we’re doing and why I say I’d like you to manage public and the media to promote the art of man in its beauty, and what do we say in On Demand, no better place on a fine day. And by gone, we’ve had some fine days. So please share that, because what you’re doing is you’re promoting the art of not just as a place to visit, which we will want that bounce back and next year, but also a place to live and work, which is the very simple premise of the programme for government. And we know we’re already guest gaining inquiries, and there are businesses that have people ready to move to the Isle of Man. Why because of our position here, but also the quality of lifestyle that we do have on our island. And I think we’ve all got a role and responsibility there to promote the art of man, which is done to pretty good effect. I have to say, buy a lot of social media along with the mainstream media, which which you guys are so very good question. Thank you, Simon.
Unknown Speaker 12:49
Tim, thank you
Unknown Speaker 12:51
item. Id haircut.
Tim Glover 12:55
Just a museum. It’s, yeah, it needs to doing in this fine, glorious Whether you mentioned obviously TT and we’d have hotels that would be bustling there with the TT visitors, campsites, etc, etc. But there is the the Fallout, the reputational Fallout because as well as we’re getting all over, I should have been on the islands today we’re getting a lot of comments about the fact that people didn’t get a refund and they have lost considerable amounts of money in some instances. You put words out saying reputational damage to the island, you’re working to avoid that with the hotels, but just Could you give us some details as to out you’re doing that if hotels are sticking with that non refund policy?
Laurence Skelly 13:41
Yeah, I you’ve raised this before and I know this is done the rounds on social media. And it is a difficult issue and I know there are one or two properties and people are being targeted, which is unfortunate but what we have stated and be very clear about it is that we have supported the termination decisions which are individual to the each of those businesses. And clearly, for us here on the island, we did have what we have 70% of our hotel bed space on the promenade. They were living through the disruption of that they then had the flybys, and then COVID came along. And as you know, we work very much on a seasonal type of issue. So we know it’s very difficult with the margins. But what I would say is there are many hoteliers, as well as the tour operators have managed the forward book, which is great. And we welcome that in good news, just recently by the steam packet talking about their bookings for next year, which are shown very healthy, very strong and we hope that can be maintained. And And I’d also like to say that this is a global issue, the travel problem. Many people have booked holidays. There’s an airline collapses, I saw Sharon’s actually collapse there just this last week, you know, one of the oldest coaches company, you know, in Britain, and that’s another form of tourism that’s quite strong for us here on the Isle of Man is his coach travelling, what will happen as a result of that in terms of coach business, because given their demographic and you know that the getting back to public having confidence to go on holiday, right now, our focus here as an island just is the domestic economy, which is why we need the islands population where they can to spend on Island. So I get back to that, that multiplier effect every pound spent, can represent one pound 80 go around our local economy, which was really valuable for us, particularly more so now.
Tim Glover 15:40
I think it’s just on that it’s more than just sharing so we’re part of a bigger group and it’s national holidays to see more coaches on the island as well. So that’s a further blow isn’t it for that tourism sector, which is going to be apart from the staycation trade is going to be the last to really get back on its feet.
Laurence Skelly 15:58
You’re right and And this is why it’s, we as we release sectors that can go back to work, who feel they are safe enough to go back to work and start generating income, less support will be needed for them and allows us to concentrate and focus on what will be a strategy around particularly tourism and travel. But we also walk governed by what happens further afield when it comes to travel and tourism. But we know we have a good offer. And I would highlight that we were seeing good steady increase in our tourism over the last few years and investment was was running at an all time high really and so very encouraging. And I do know that there is still interest there. So but it will be a difficult one and it will take some time. So the staycation is relatively small scale but it is an opportunity that we do want to open up sooner rather than later.
Tim Glover 16:55
And secondly, how concerned are you by The sacking of Chris Thomas from the Council of Ministers and concert now took was central NHK only sad on the man in line at eight, the Council of Ministers using emergency powers and appropriately, a group within komen you’re running things and sidelining other ministers. And why did koban not read the mood symbol correctly on Tuesday over the planning issue?
Laurence Skelly 17:22
Well, number of questions there. Am I concerned? Yeah, I mean, Chris, I always brought value and fully respected is important, personally had a lot of direct input with them. And so it is what politics is very often we can politics as a long time. And you know, I’m saddened to see him go but now he is gone. I’m sure we will continue to work together work with Chris previously as on the back benches. that that is the case in terms of Council of Ministers not reading the mood. And that is does and can happen you know, from from time to time. A lot of people think that council ministers has a block voting and can run things through temples. And that’s not the case. We do not have a majority. And so that that will happen from time to time, and it’s certainly not the first I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Tim Glover 18:15
Well, I think anybody listening to the debates, it was clear pretty early on, you weren’t in a winner. And yet, the debate carried on and on and on. And eventually you were defeated.
Laurence Skelly 18:25
As many Bates debates do, do carry on, and that’s democracy. You’re at work really, Tim so and I just would like to pay tribute, actually, to our parliament, our Parliament’s here, we’ve just had a house of keys this afternoon, for example, and I was speaking to some of the staff working in the parliament. And they were saying they’re doing double the number of sittings and what they would normally do, and actually virtual, which is great for us that we could perhaps sit at home or in an office. They’ve actually got to almost double up with some of the rare the functions that they do so but I want to say what Hold on to them for facilitating the continuation of the political scrutiny and decision making and legislation. That was that has just been passed today.
Tim Glover 19:11
Can I just ask the question and he didn’t answer there the emergency powers? Do you feel that they are being used appropriately? And also all this little groups within Coleman has Chris Thompson believes there are?
Laurence Skelly 19:22
Well, I don’t know, it probably referring to National Strategy Group. And clearly, you know, that that that is a body with it is a part of council of ministers and clearly has been driving things on a daily basis but with then Council of Ministers their support, so that that’s the makeup of our of our governments and it is quite clear and straightforward. So and I would suggest that has worked very effectively to date, otherwise, we wouldn’t be at this particular juncture. So are there groups you know, I don’t know you and they’re always groups with Then political, we don’t do necessarily policy politics, but there are always group groups of people who, you know, do vote together sometimes. But I would just suggest that we have been very effective today.
Unknown Speaker 20:16
Any further questions from any of you? Can I ask about
Tim Glover 20:20
the emergency powers? Are they being used essential
Laurence Skelly 20:25
policies? And I know I think they that is appropriate, it may be sometimes regarded as quite blunt. In many ways, however, they’ve been very necessary. Why because we’re in an emergency crisis situation. And clearly, if there is a different mechanism to do that, then that is being explored as we speak with the Attorney General and the chief secretary. I know our investigation. But, you know, hopefully this will get to this particular juncture very shortly thereafter will no longer be necessary, but I believe it has been necessary to today’s Once more would say it has been effective
Unknown Speaker 21:03
Laurence Skelly 21:06
Well, that’s that one particular case and that one particular issue too. So and the decision has been made the will of Tynwald has has been determined and therefore, you know, we as government will have to adhere and work around that. But that’s Democracy at Work, Tim. Thank you.
Unknown Speaker 21:23
Yeah. Thank you. Any further questions, Chris saw Simon. Nope.
Unknown Speaker 21:29
Great. Well, can assist it just following on from sorry. Go ahead. Yeah, just following on, following on from what we were saying before, just about the Isle of Man and marketing and getting people to come here and enjoy it now that we hopefully are going to be Coronavirus free. It’s absolutely key to get our borders open as soon as possible, isn’t it because we’re while we’re effectively sealed off from the rest of the world in many respects, and we can’t really cash in on that opportunity.
Laurence Skelly 21:58
Yeah, no borders. problem. But in terms of marketing, Simon, I think one of the strongest points which we talked about, I mentioned earlier about the Isle of Man be an attractive place to live and work. And I’ve been reading a number of articles people have been sharing with me about, do they really want to live in a big city? Do they really want to have a commute on public transport? And there are people I know that actually moved here, local Maxis that came back to the Isle of Man, and are actually working for UK companies. And quite frankly, some of them do not want to go back to the UK, but they proven they can be still productive. And as a government, I think we’ve demonstrated that to I just look at our own department within a week 98% of us were working from home. And we’ve been working seven days in certain cases there, which has proved that we can be effective and and still provide those vital services. And the real one of the other benefits of this was not long ago, we were debating climate change, or one of the biggest Disadvantages of climate change is us not getting in the car and going to work. So, there is a direct benefit right there too. So, so I do think there is there is the call the new normal. And I think you will see more of this private sector I know is is discussing this very heavily the role because they see cost cutting opportunities as a result of the new economy going forward. And government clearly needs to look at this as well in a more sort of permanent basis.
Unknown Speaker 23:28
Thank you. Thank you. Great. Okay,
Laurence Skelly 23:31
well, thank you very much. Appreciate the questions and thank you once more to the to the great Manx public and I’ll just leave it with you to say Tony sushi stay safe man and Sunday BRAC either man forever. Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the TT four night. Go to mind