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This is an unofficial and unverified transcript

This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government’s Coronavirus Media Briefing held on Thursday 19 February 2021. In particular, for any legal guidance, you should seek advice from official sources.

You should not rely heavily upon it — it is transcribed by an automated speech recognition service, and I cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any local Manx words (especially in Gaelic) are more likely to be inaccurate. Also, the automated speech recognition service often converts proper nouns incorrectly (especially the spoken words “Isle of Man” to “Ireland” or “all of man”).

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 0:00
Well good evening everyone and thank you for taking the time to watch and listen today I’m joined by the Minister for Health and Social Care David Ashford Minister for Education, Sport and Culture Dr. Alex Allinson. And on Zoom by our Director of Public Health, Dr. Henrietta Ewart. Without further ado, I would like to hand over to minister Ashford for the latest figures and an update on our vaccination programme. David,

David Ashford 0:24
Thank you, Chief Minister. The total number of tests undertaken now stands at 30,840. The total number of tests concluded stands at 30,837, meaning we are outstanding three results. The total number of new cases identified in the last 24 hours is five. So another five positive cases. Well, could they those consist of a crew member from the steam packet who was picked up with one of the screws screening swabs yesterday. Further screening swabs have been conducted today for the steam packet crew and arrangements made for these to continue. The other four cases identified are one close contact and three children and all close contacts of existing cases. So there is nothing in these results that can’t be explained. We have anticipated that we would find further cases amongst close contacts, that is to be expected in the contact tracing process as we go forward. So contact tracing continues, and we await the results of further tests. This means our active number of cases now is at 15 and the total number of cases overall at 449. I also want to just give a brief update on two aspects of the vaccination programme. Firstly in relation to those who are housebound. The community vaccination team are observing that a large proportion of patients that they visit to give the vaccine too, are turning out not to be genuinely house bound. The more the more how non house bound patients we go to say the longer that the house bound vaccination programme will take, leaving at risk those who genuinely can’t leave home to receive the vaccine. If people have previously registered for a house bound vaccination, but feel they could get to the hub at the airport or Chester Street, either with the assistance of family or friends or via patient transport services, please do contact 111 to amend your registration. If patients have registered for a home vaccination on the basis, they are house bound, the team are in the process of booking these appointments. If you have previously registered for a home visit, you don’t need to follow this up, the team will be in touch to confirm the team will operate in five days a week and moving across most areas of the island over a five day period. But it is important that only those who are genuinely house bound to be vaccinated at home, as otherwise we delay the vaccination process for those who genuinely are. The second aspect I’d like to touch on is around those with learning disabilities. Under the jcvi shedule people with learning disabilities are due for vaccination at two different points in the rollout. people with Down syndrome have been placed in Priority group for a category which includes those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. adults with severe or profound learning disability have in Priority group six, which captures people aged between 16 and 65, who are clinically vulnerable. Residents with a learning disability and users of the letter Learning Disability Services who don’t fall within the priority groups are called upon on the basis of their age. We have been reviewing this here on Ireland and decided that due to the numbers involved that individually on Ireland, those who have a learning disability, or who are learning disability service users can all be done as part a priority group for rather than splitting between two different priority groups. For this group, we will use Greenfield Park tall trees de services complex as a vaccination hub to ensure these individuals can be vaccinated in what for many will be familiar surroundings. This makes more logistical sense for us and ensures that all of this group can be done at the same time. And the vaccinations for these groups will be done over three days in late March. Thank you, Chief Minister.

Howard Quayle 4:24
Thanks very much, David. Now the Council of Ministers met this morning and we’re presented with these latest figures and details surrounding each new case. The situation remains very similar to yesterday. All Isle of Man cases that have been identified are believed to be linked to a single chain of transmission, making a single cluster. As I’ve said yesterday, these are early days, but it is encouraging that we’ve had no surprises in terms of cases identified so far. Taking this into account and acting on the advice from public health and office. says the Council of Ministers determined that for now, there remain No need to bring in restrictions to Island life. We will of course continue to closely monitor the situation and any developments as and when they arise. Our decision is in line with our outbreak management plan and reflects the moderate level of risk posed to our community at the present time. I will of course keep you updated over the weekend should anything unexpected appear, and whether that may require us to change our approach. Since the index case was identified, our contact tracing team have been working hard at identifying close contacts who may be at risk of contracting COVID-19 isolation and testing is only one part of this process, building up a detailed picture of people that are at risk contacts having have interacted with places they have visited, how long they were there for, and what activities they undertook, can be a time consuming and complex process, but a very important one, and one we must get right from the seven cases and MGS. Today, our contact tracing team were able to identify a number of locations that pose low levels of risk to the public of contracting COVID-19. If they were there within very specific timeframes on this list was published this morning. You’ll recall that we have done this before. Back at the end of December and the beginning of January, we are following the exact same protocols here. With all of the locations of interest we have published being deemed low risk, there is no cause for undue concern, and no action will be needed for the public to take. The only reason we issue these lists is to encourage extra vigilance. I’ve spoken off the roll behaviour has to play in the fight against COVID-19. by publishing low risk locations, we can encourage those who are at venues of specific times to be particularly aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It can be all too easy to dismiss things. It’s only a sniffle. or it won’t happen to me or I’m just making a nuisance of myself. I’ve said before and do so again, we would rather be safe than sorry. If you have COVID like symptoms, please call 111 for advice. If you have the locations we have listed at the time specified, then all the more reason to do so if you’re showing signs. A full list of the locations dates and times are available on gov.im. Our social media feeds and they’ll be displayed at the end of today’s briefing. When we identify low risk locations, we contact the effect of businesses and organisations some choose to put in place restrictions or even close for a time perhaps to carry out deep cleans these decisions are a matter for each organisation. So I want the message to be clear. Every location we have published does not pose a significant risk. And these businesses and organisations can continue to trade or operate as normal should they wish, if they do not. I of course respect that decision to further low risk locations we announced earlier this afternoon, and I would like to hand over to minister alanson. Talk a little bit more about these. Alex

Alex Allinson 8:40
Thank you Chief Minister. Contact tracing has identified two educational settings that could pose a low risk of infection for a small number of school pupils, one at a school on one on a school bus. Both areas of interest occurred on Friday the 12th of February, the final day before half term. They involve the number 31 bus from eight to 845 in the morning, and from 345 to 415 that afternoon, and balaka mean high school from 8:45am to 3:45pm. As part of the contact tracing process, a small number of pupils have been identified who might be at risk. They’ve all been contacted personally and a self isolating along with other members of their households. All have been offered tests. We are working closely with the school’s head teacher, Mrs. Burnett. I would like to thank her and her colleagues for all their help and assistance. I’m also grateful to the contact tracing team for the sensitive way. they’ve handled this delicate situation involving children, the advice they’ve shared and the measures they have put in place. We will keep the situation under review whilst all contact tracing is completed at the present time. balaka mean and all of the schools will open as normal. On Monday, should the situation change over the weekend, we will make further announcements as early as possible. I would like to reassure pupils, parents and all school staff, that all the appropriate steps are being taken to ensure the safety of them and their families when schools reopen as planned, but we must remain vigilant. If any pupil exhibits any of the COVID-19 symptoms, please make sure they stay at home that they don’t attend school, and that they arrange for testing immediately by phoning 111. Thank you, Chief Minister.

Howard Quayle 10:36
Thank you very much, Alex. I know this may cause concern. But please remember that the risk is low. As with the other low risk locations, we are only making this announcement so that those of balika mean or on the number 31 boss last Friday can be extra vigilant for signs and symptoms of COVID. In terms of locations that pose a higher risk, we have identified a small number, however, we’ve been able to trace and make contact with everyone who we believe may be affected. Because of this, thanks to the excellent work of our contact tracing team. We have not had to issue an appeal asking people who visited these venues at the particular times to come forward and make themselves known. Dr. UITS, could I perhaps perhaps invite you to talk a little bit more about this cluster, and also the European Centre for disease control’s guidelines in relation to the low and high risk locations and the protocols that we use.

Henrietta Ewart 11:35
Thank you, Chief Minister. Yes, as you’ve said, we can be increasingly confident that we are looking at one single cluster here with distinct lines of transmission, which we are following down and are containing reason for cautious optimism on that is the time is now going on. It’s 10 days since the date when the index case here on Island became infected. And it’s a week today, since for example, the positive contacts who were in school were in school. So the chances of further cases emerging now are gradually going down. Because obviously we’re getting through what would have been the incubation period. And we would have expected those cases to have emerged by now. Likewise, if there had been any sort of leakage beyond those transmission chains out into the wider community, we would also expect to have been seeing that by now. So all of that is reasons for cautious optimism. In terms of managing this cluster, one of the interesting features has been that obviously it includes positive cases who were actually UK based. So I just wanted to note about the people’s information, really, that the public health team here is working with Public Health England, and the Lancashire local authority public health team, to make sure everything is appropriately integrated in terms of sharing what we know and what they know, and identifying whether any further actions need to come from. Now in terms of the contact tracing protocols, as Chief Minister just mentioned, we follow the European Centre for disease control protocols. And if anybody is interested, if you just Google ecdc, COVID, contact tracing protocols, you’ll be able to access the documents. Those contain a framework of guidance, really, and I’ll call it that. And you’ll see why as I explained, which are really based on issues like how long a contact lasted for what the nature of that contact was, was it face to face? Was it not? Was protective equipment, equipment involved? Was it not? Was it indoors, was it outdoors, etc, etc. But all of those things are to an extent, arbitrary. And this is where the experience of our contact tracing team is absolutely fundamental, because they are very good at getting below the headline of what the contact might have been to really understand the dynamics in that, and also the behaviours. And that is absolutely fundamental to really getting a grip on the trends of transmission and understanding where we need to focus our efforts. So to give an example, just for illustration, positive case spending time in a pub is always a red flag. For us. It’s potentially a super spreader event. It’s something that we really do want to understand, particularly this time of year where you know, it’s likely to be a crowded indoor venue. It’s likely to be hot, unventilated, people are likely to be shouting, potentially moving around between groups, etc. And it really is a risk factor for a super spiritual event. However, the behaviour of the positive case is really key to that. So if it’s somebody who went to the pub on their own, bought a pint, sat in a corner, not talking to anybody else, nurse the pint for an hour or two and then went home, that is actually quite a low risk. If on the other hand, they are somebody whose life and soul of the party was interacting with everybody in that pub joining the karaoke, having multiple contacts with multiple people, then that is very much higher risk. So this is where the hard work of contact tracing comes in, because it can take time to actually tease that out. So I really just wanted to sort of put say that just to underline how dependent on where we are on the skills of our contact tracing team, to really help us understand what’s going on in these clusters and transmission chains, and help us to get to grips with them. Thank you.

Howard Quayle 15:58
And thank you very much, Dr. urutan. I hope that provides some context and reassurance to you. Before turning to today’s questions from the media. I want to address the issue of the isolation rules for Isle of Man based steam packet crew members who travel on board vessels between the Ireland and the United Kingdom, it’s clear that there has been a difference of opinion surrounding the expectations of what is required. government’s position is clear. The steam packets has been issued with a key worker entry certificate for both Isle of Man and UK based cruise. This provides an exemption to our Coronavirus regulations that enables crew on board steam packet vessels to travel to and from the island to keep our vital sea routes functioning. In doing so, however, it also sets out clear conditions which are in place to protect our community and to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading to our island. The conditions apply only to the crew and not to other members of their household so children can continue to go to school for example, this is on the basis that the crew were peepee during their shift and follow other safety protocols. The entry certificate issued to the steam packet makes clear that the conditions are set out and must be adhered to. The first and most important condition is modified self isolation. This allows steam packet crew to travel directly between the vessel on their accommodation, but most isolate outside of work, and so cannot attend pubs or restaurants for example, face coverings must be worn when travelling between work and their place of isolation. Now there are investigations underway and these need to be completed. officers from government and the steam packet have discussed the matter and are due to meet shortly on the way to discuss the way forward. What I can say is that over the last year, the steam packet have managed to operate it services for our island in a safe way. This has been achieved by working in partnership with us. And we will continue to be and will continue to be the case. We have a difficult balance to achieve. But I’m confident that together we can find a solution. They remain a lifeline to our island. And so of course we want to work with them to resolve this issue as swiftly as possible. And now to questions from the media. And first we have Josh Stokes from ITV. Granada. Good afternoon, Josh foster my

Josh Stokes 18:22
Good afternoon, following on from queries around the parent company we’ve been sold on good authority that crew members have not been made aware about sell buy stay on arrival. Do you have an idea of how many crew members you think have been adhering to this modified self promotion?

Howard Quayle 18:36
Well, I’ve asked office officers obviously to investigate this, Josh. So I’m afraid until the investigation has been carried out. I can’t give you any any further details on that.

Josh Stokes 18:47
Because Just to follow on from that that does seem to be some communication breakdown, causing the confusion. Surely, if crews were supposed to be in some form of self isolation, they would have presumably been included in the travel notification service isolation checks and therefore checks on at least once over the last 11 months. Why do you think it’s taken this long to identify this issue?

Howard Quayle 19:05
Well, as I say, our officers are absolutely clear that in their mind, what should have been happening, but they’re having discussions with the steam packet. I’m having it investigated. And therefore until I’ve got the results, I can’t really comment on what’s been going on.

Josh Stokes 19:23
Okay, my second question, given these new cases that have arised any update on how long you think it will take before we can confidently say this cluster has been controlled in some way and the risk of lockdown becomes unlikely?

Howard Quayle 19:35
Well, I think it will probably be monday tuesday to get a much clearer picture. I don’t know David or Doctor, do you want to give an opinion?

David Ashford 19:44
Yeah, I’ll bring the Director of Public Health in. In a moment of I’m a chief minister and Chief Ministers quite correct. Josh will probably take through the weekend with extended contact tracing, to make absolutely sure that we feel we’ve managed to contain things as we know viruses can be tricky things. At the moment, as the Director of Public Health has said in her piece, as the timeline stretches out, it looks more and more promising. Because we’re moving through the potential incubation period. As I said, in my remarks, we found nothing that was unexpected at the moment. But we we need to be still cautious. And I still say to the general public, they need to be vigilant at this stage, even although we are not recommending at the moment that any action needs to be taken. And with that, I’ll pass it to the Director of Public Health.

Henrietta Ewart 20:30
Thank you, Minister. Yes, as we’ve said, In previous clusters, the point at which we can generally assume that change transmission of ended is when we get to 14 days since the last positive test, we can be assured that the incident is fully closed once we get to 28 days, which is two times the incubation period. So we’re beginning to get towards that point. And as I said earlier, the fact that we’re not seeing any further spread beyond these transmission chains in this cluster is all you know, reasons for optimism. Thank you.

Howard Quayle 21:12
Thanks very much, Josh. Okay, next we have Rob Pritchard from three FM. Good afternoon, Rob faster. My Good afternoon, Chief

Unknown Speaker 21:19
Minister, my

Unknown Speaker 21:20
first question probably for Dr. years, in any of the new cases identified, have they picked up any of the Ken’s or South African Barrett’s,

Henrietta Ewart 21:29
we won’t get the genomic sequencing back for about a week. So we’ll start to see that soon, I would actually suspect that it is going to be kind of variant. And the reason for that is Kent variant is now the dominant strain across the UK. So that would be you know, the default position. The other reason for suspecting that that’s going to be the case is that we seem to be seeing a short interval between the exposure and onset of symptoms shorter than we’ve seen before. And that’s a bit anecdotal a bit, you know, a feeling rather than strongly linked to published data. But colleagues have observed similar things elsewhere in the UK and colleagues in the Channel Islands. So that and the fact that we know can vary and it’s predominant now makes me expect that that is what we’ll see when we get sequencing back.

Howard Quayle 22:27
Okay, Robbie, next question. Thank you. My

Unknown Speaker 22:29
second question is to the education minister, please. Okay. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 22:37
Good afternoon. Minister. Could you just give us a bit more detail on how you’re actually advising schools, given the situation could change in a very short space of time? Yes, I

Alex Allinson 22:45
mean, I think we have to be clear that we’re dealing with one school at the moment, contact tracing have followed an infection in a young person, what they’ve then done, it’s gone back 48 hours, we’ve identified a window of possible infection on Friday, the last day before half term, once we’ve identified that we’ve been obviously working with the the staff of that school, reassuring them about their own safety, but also looking at any contacts that one individual may have had within the class environment, then deal with them, ask them to self isolate, test them as well. And so gradually, the picture will emerge as to whether they have been at risk of spreading the infection to other people on that last day of the term. No other schools are implicated in this at the present time. But what we are saying is, obviously, if if your child does develop any COVID-19 symptoms, please do get them tested. If they’re unwell in any way. Don’t send them to school. And we’ve been reiterating that advice since we started that this academic year.

Unknown Speaker 23:51
Thank you.

Howard Quayle 23:52
Thanks very much, Rob. And now we move to Manx radio and Tim Glover. Good afternoon, Tim customi.

Rob Pritchard 23:57
So I just want to clear up on a question that we’ve got through regarding the reliability of early tests. Because there’s a large number obviously being tested as a lot of negative tests. So it here early on, are they then free to go out into the public? Or are they do they still sell isolates and why they’re not being treated? The same as returning residents?

Howard Quayle 24:20
Could you explain why returning residents because

Unknown Speaker 24:23
we like do the 14 days with tests or 21 days, don’t they?

Howard Quayle 24:28
Will they do to you or do you want to comment on that?

Henrietta Ewart 24:33
Yes. First of all, how confident can we be from the testing? I think kind of implicit in your question there or maybe I’m just over crediting the knowledge of the questioner is that it’s possible to be incubating COVID and have a negative test and then go on to be positive. Now that is absolutely the case. And that is why when we have high risk taxpayers are required to self isolate for 21 days, which can be reduced to 14, subject to three negative tests. Now, we also do and you’ll remember, we did this in the 1886 context back at Christmas and New Year, what we call surveillance testing. And we do that when the timeframe indicates that if we do some wider testing, beyond just the high risk contacts, we should get a reasonable yield of any positives that might be out there. Now, if the positive case was, say, identified only a day or two before the time we’re talking about, then surveillance testing at that point is not of much use, because people who were infected one day two days ago, may very well not yet be shedding virus, so it would give us false reassurance. In this case, as was the case with the 1886 scenario. It’s a week or it was a week on Wednesday, since the fixed point where we know the index case here became infected. So doing surveillance testing on the rest of the shift members who were working with that person was actually worth doing. Obviously, the high risk contacts were self isolated, and followed up with the usual requirements. But the surveillance testing was also done as an adjunct, to actually do a sort of wider sweep and see if there was anything that had got out further, that’s particularly important in a context like this, because the index case that we first identified, might actually have caught the infection from somebody else that was on the shift and remaining asymptomatic and who we didn’t know about. So that’s why we took a wider view there. But all those who were identified in the usual course of things as high risk contacts were managed in the usual way. Thank you.

Howard Quayle 27:02
Okay. Thank you for that. Your next question, Tim?

Rob Pritchard 27:06
Yes, just from one of our listeners, the government’s identified the low risk cluster in December, which is being referred to as 1886 cluster, and it was classed as community transmission, the current cluster is being considered as low risk. They’re asking, though, because we got a similar number of cases, why we’re not encouraging mass squaring in the shops, public transport, etc, social distancing to prevent another lockdown. Can we get an explanation of the risk between what was the situation earlier in the year and the one now? I mean, for example, Perth had one case and went into a five day lockdown.

Howard Quayle 27:49
Okay, I think really, Doctor uses our public health director. I’ll let you take that one again.

Henrietta Ewart 27:55
Thank you. Yes, I mean, context is everything in judging what one might do in these scenarios? I’m not quite sure why you said the 1886 cluster was regarded as community transmission, because it wasn’t. I know, there was quite a lot of discussion on social media for that, surely it must be community because 1886 is community. But actually it wasn’t it was still identified chains of transmission. So exactly similar to this issues in Australia, often when they get cases in the community. And again, if you get a sporadic case in the community that you can’t link back, that’s when you want to go in hard and you want to go in fast. That’s not the case here. We haven’t had sporadic cases turning up in the community, and therefore we’re not taking that, you know, lockdown approach. Another parallel would be Guernsey, where obviously, they had a number of cases that suddenly emerged, again, with no clear line of transmission from an identified travel related case. So context is everything. That’s why it’s so important to understand what the context is, and get beneath, you know, the headline facts to understand what’s going on, and what might or might not be an appropriate response to it. Thank you.

Howard Quayle 29:18
David, you want to add something to

David Ashford 29:20
Yeah, just for clarity. I think people are getting their timelines confused as well. Tim, as you mentioned there about masks and social distancing. In relation to what we’re calling the 1886 cluster. We didn’t recommend masks. And we didn’t bring in social distancing. That was in relation to the later issue in January, where we saw what at the time were believed to be a couple of sporadic cases where we couldn’t trace back coming forward. We didn’t recommend that with the 1886 cluster. And this is no different to that.

Unknown Speaker 29:46
I think they were just saying to avoid the lockdown rather than linking with the 1886.

Howard Quayle 29:52
Yeah, I think it’s, you know, we need to make sure that reading from people’s comments then we have to make sure they’re factually correct. Before, we have a discussion here, but I think you’ve been given a good answer to the concerns that people may have. Right now we’ll move on to Alex Bell from BBC Isle of Man. Good afternoon, Alex foster my

Unknown Speaker 30:12
Hello there, just to drill into this steam packet issue.

Unknown Speaker 30:16
I’m wondering,

Unknown Speaker 30:17
do you know how many Isle of Man based steam packets staff are, at any one time expected to stay in this state of modified self isolation?

Howard Quayle 30:28
It’s not something I have the exact number with me at the moment, Alex, I know I’ve had members of the public who are following these rules because of their modified rules and regulations that they have to follow who are very disappointed about the situation, but I can’t get you the figures. I’ll try and circulate that to you. I’m more than happy to find out and circulate that to Alex. So

Unknown Speaker 30:54
it’s okay. It would be useful to know whether the government believes that fairy crews can be expected to live in this sort of near constant state, I guess, of quarante.

Howard Quayle 31:04
Well, I suppose that shift work, you do so many weeks on so many weeks off, and we had been looking at ways to help those families that were impacted. But as I say, there’s an investigation going on, Alex. And I think it’s, it’s unfair to try and prejudge, until we’ve got the full details. So obviously, when that has been done, then obviously we’ll be it’ll it’ll be reported.

Unknown Speaker 31:27
When can we expect the results of this investigation?

Howard Quayle 31:30
That I can’t say, I know officers are meeting early next week with the team with the steam packet to look at ways to resolve this situation. So as soon as we have something, of course, we’ll share it with you all.

Unknown Speaker 31:44
Thank you. And just just to move on there, and the Lancet journal is now among a growing number of publications saying with more certainty on a post hoc basis, that a longer dose between Oxford jabs, results in higher efficacy. What will it take for the Manx government to follow the science here?

Howard Quayle 32:02
Well, I know our team are reviewing this, Alex up this moment in time, we’ve always said we would be, you know, the data would have to be peer reviewed. Just publishing a paper doesn’t mean to say that it’s right now, if it turns out to be correct. I’m sure we will be moved on, we will move on this position. But we have asked our medics to look at the data. They’re having regular meetings along with Dr. urate to discuss this. And if the data says yes, then of course, we’ll move but I think I’ll bring in David and then Dr. yerba to our living and breathing this.

David Ashford 32:35
Yes, thank you, Chief Minister. It has been as I’ve said in previous briefings being looked at by the clinical advisory group they met yesterday, it has been considered. And I should be able to make an announcement early early next week, where I’ll make a formal announcement whether we are extending the dosing, one of the things we do have to be cautious about is just to point out that the paper doesn’t actually say that doing the dose at 21 to 28 days is wrong, because the paper did not look at that they did not follow long term, or compare different dosing trends. And in fact, it’s quite interesting. You raised about the Lancet paper again, Alex, and also the new paper that’s come forward as well today, in relation to five sir, because this morning on BBC Radio four was Professor Finn of the University of Bristol, who actually said we have to have caution about whether the vaccine reduces transmission if the longer dose works, because he was talking about the type of people that have been involved in this study. So we do still have to have caution on that. But it’s just to point out, it’s not saying there’s anything wrong with doing the 21 to 28 days, it’s simply stating that if you leave it longer, there’s no adverse reaction, which is what the paper was looking at, if what the UK was doing was actually going to damage the first dose. But I’ll bring in the Director of Public Health have anything further she wishes to add, but I can make a public announcement early next week on what position the arm is going to be remaining with.

Henrietta Ewart 34:01
Thank you, Minister, I mean, just to summarise that there are three reasons one, we might want to move from the dosage interval that were included in the clinical studies that led to the authorization of the vaccine. And bear in mind that we’re talking about Oxford AstraZeneca in this context, and those are one that you have very, very high levels of infection, and therefore your overriding concern is to get some protection for as many of your vulnerable populations as possible to that you’re concerned about consistency of supply lines and supply chains for enabling you to do the two doses of the vaccine. And three, that evidence is accruing, that there may be a benefit rather than a neutrality in terms of extending the dosage interval. So all of those things have to be taken into account here for us. Clearly we don’t have high levels of circulating infection at the moment. So that is not covered. Driver, but we always have to be mindful that we are only as COVID safe as the last person across the border, as we frequently say. And that situation could change. Supply, as we know, is always, you know, something that could become an issue. And as the minister has said, the emerging evidence from the stool to be peer reviewed studies indicates that there appears to be no detriment from extending the dosage interval, if you are taking the view that you need to do that. Okay, thank you.

Howard Quayle 35:31
Yeah, I think it’s safe to say, Alex, though, when we feel it’s right to do it for the safety of Ireland residents were well, and we’ll move as quickly as we can on that. So we’re not saying no, we’re just saying, you know, hopefully early next week, we can announce what we’re going to do. It wasn’t if you all remember, it wasn’t that long ago, you’re asking me questions about whether the if you gave the vaccine too far apart was so diluted that it wouldn’t work and then for you are wasting the vaccine. So as we go along the whole world is learning from this illness and the various vaccines that we’re using and things will change, I’m sure, on a daily, weekly and monthly basis as we go forward. But we will always advise you on what you know, with those decisions. But as I say, the Health Minister has advised you early next week, you’ll get your answer on that. Right. Thanks very much, Alex, we now move on to Sam Turton from Gef. Good afternoon, Sam faster. My

Sam Turton 36:24
first my chief minister, regrettably, will be coming back to steam packet on this week. If I go back, though, to last Tuesday’s House of keys where Mr. Robert shore asked you about whether you keep it the back window open, you said you’d been down to check the security of the ferries yourself on an unannounced visit. And everything was as was you were told, with that in case then I’m still lost as to where this investigation is going to go? Well, you told the wrong thing, or the same packet told the wrong thing. Because somewhere, it seems that there’s been a big breakdown in communication, which could have put us put the island at risk here.

Howard Quayle 36:57
Now, when I went down to this team packet, Sam, it was to look at whether the notices to people coming off the boat were being properly adhered to. So that was people travelling to the island who’d been away. Obviously, I can’t, you know, I can’t go on the boat to check that all the steam packet staff are wearing PP equipment throughout the journey. That’s that’s one of the rules and regulations and and obviously, staff self isolating at home is obviously something I can’t check. So I purely went down to make sure that people were being advised properly. And I’m delighted to say they were being advised properly by staff who were handing out notices and giving advice on what you had to do when you came back to the island. So just for clarification. Also, I think it’s been widely mis reported, and never let the facts get in the way of a good story. I clearly said to Mr. Robert, you’re at the time I will I shared his concerns regarding vaccinations and our borders. And then I would ask our officer team to look into whether we needed to change our current policy on making the vaccine available to the steam packet, we asked our officers to review that decision. And the Council of Ministers based on you know, having received a paper decided to make that so there was no u turns as some people have put on their their sights, if they follow the clearly follow the hand side, which is I would hope you would all do and to see what was actually said, you know, we it was said we agreed with Mr. Robert Shaw, and that we would look into the concerns we and we therefore once we’d had the report change, but as I say, I wasn’t talking about the inspections of whether the staff were wearing peepee on the ship, or whether they were self isolating it was the information given out to our travellers happy to set the record straight.

Sam Turton 38:50
And secondly, in terms of vaccines, their minister should if we did move to a longer period between the first and second dose, what would that what would that do garden the target for the end of May for the first priority cases.

David Ashford 39:05
So in terms of it actually, it doesn’t change the delivery schedule that much. We’ve had it all plotted out and in terms of the entire vaccination programme right through to September, I think it’s a two week impact. So it pushes it back two weeks, in relation to the initial priority groups, it would of course mean their first dose would be come a lot early and we’d be able to speed up first doses because he wouldn’t hold as much in stock as we currently are. We wouldn’t need to reserve the second dose isn’t the way that we are currently. But it would have very little impact on the timescales, we would still be looking at having the over 50 cohort end of May. The maximum impact would be about 14 days. And that’s maximum impact.

Howard Quayle 39:47
Okay, thanks very much, Sam. Now we’ll move on to Simon Richardson from business 365 Good afternoon, Simon faster. My

Simon Richardson 39:53
good afternoon gentlemen. My first question is for the health minister keys the vaccination Programming is continuing. And I think you know, vaccinated over 15,000 people, as you’ve moved through the age categories or down the age categories, have you come up against any firm resistance from people opposed to vaccines, and have any been specific in demanding one particular vaccine over another.

David Ashford 40:22
So in terms of the vaccination programme, Simon, we have actually over 17,000, delivered now 12,467 first doses, and 4683 second doses as the most recent figures I have here now in front of me. And in terms of resistance to vaccines, I’m happy to say we’ve got a very high take up around vaccination, there will always be people who are concerned and may want to leave it on wait. We have had people inquiring about getting a specific vaccine, but they are few in number, I think people understand that they can’t pick and choose which vaccination they have, unless there is a very good medical reason for them to be doing so. So for instance, I can say to you in terms of take up at the moment or in terms of actual delivery. And for residents in care homes and older adults and their carers, we’ve now vaccinated 86.3% percent of that group, or those over 18, we’ve done 79% of the maximum number of people there could be. And in the 75 to 80 group, we’re now at 76%. So that in itself shows that it’s going to it’s a very, very big table.

Simon Richardson 41:31
supply of vaccine at the moment, are we getting sufficient for you to keep to the schedules?

David Ashford 41:36
Yes, so the supply is exactly what we’ve expected. And we did have some bumps, of course simulation to five. So which I’ve explained at this briefing before, when I was doing the work on the Belgium plant to what production, those pumps seem to have levelled out now. And we are receiving the stock in that we would expect and we are receiving the 0.13% of the UK stock that we would expect. Thank you.

Howard Quayle 42:00
Thanks very much, Simon. Next we’ll move on is Paul motion from alderman television. Good afternoon, Paul foster my

Unknown Speaker 42:06
Good afternoon.

Unknown Speaker 42:07
For Dave Asprey. I

Unknown Speaker 42:08
think, really, you bought up the business about a C pack? And another positive case? Can you give us a bit more on that? Because is it related to the other one? And, you know, does everyone that works with that person also now have to self isolate? Or they carry on working? Or bnpp?

Unknown Speaker 42:22
Can you smoke?

David Ashford 42:23
Yes, I can, I can pull. So I believe they’re on the show the same shift pattern as the previous worker is my understanding. And they came up via the surveillance testing, which is exactly why we’ve done the surveillance testing. And they will now be isolated along with anyone else in their household. And also close contacts. Close high risk contacts have also been contacted and made to self isolate. There are there are, you know, the way the system works within the steam packets, people are mixing as much as you know that much. So there isn’t a large amount of high risk contacts have come off the back of that case, but they will be treated in exactly the same way contact tracing will be undertaken. And anyone who is deemed high risk will be isolated. And I’ll pass infrastructure public health official wants to add anything. Yes, I

Unknown Speaker 43:08
think you’ve described it very, very clearly. Minister, that’s exactly the situation. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 43:16
It’s just obviously the over the nine months or so according to work on the seabag. There have been quite a few cases, although only one in our mantos has been registered. This is a concern. And you’ve had a meeting this morning with a steam packet. What went on? Do you have you come up with two new protocols.

David Ashford 43:32
And my understanding is the state of the meeting with the steam packet is now in the formal meeting is next week.

Unknown Speaker 43:38
Oh, you didn’t meet today? I

Unknown Speaker 43:38
thought you said he was having talks.

David Ashford 43:40
But my understanding is the formal meetings next week. So I can correct me on that.

Henrietta Ewart 43:47
No, that’s great. We’ve been in discussion with them, but the actual meeting to really try and solve all of these protocols, etc, which is next week.

Unknown Speaker 43:55
So just to clear this thing up. people haven’t cell by state, a lot of me they can’t go on three weeks. So isolation are things carrying on as they were before. Was could be a breach of the COVID regulations, couldn’t they?

David Ashford 44:07
Well, what I would say to that pool, if I if I may, is the entry certificate that is issued to the steam packet is very clear. And quantity from from to me. The entry certificate is what should be being worked to.

Unknown Speaker 44:19
You’re happy.

David Ashford 44:21
I think it it was put in place for the protection of the arlindo I believe it’s an appropriate measure.

Howard Quayle 44:25
Okay. Thanks very much, Paul. Now, last but not least, we have Helen McKenna from Holloman newspapers. Good afternoon, Helen.

Unknown Speaker 44:34
I think it’s good evening now. Good evening witnesses. And so my first question is about what is the criteria for low risk locations?

Howard Quayle 44:46
Right. Well, I I’m not an expert on that. I’ll pass over straightaway to Dr. uit.

Henrietta Ewart 44:52
Yes, it would be a location where people have been where a positive case has been present, but they do To meet the criteria for close contact. So as I said that uses as its framework, the ecdc protocols. And the close contacts are defined in terms of how long they spent in close contact with the case, what the nature of that contact was, where they face to face, were they talking, were they in a confined space, etc, etc. So once we’ve identified the close contact, and again, the puppy example, is, is quite a good one to run on this. If you’re in the pub, as a positive case, with a group of mates, you’re sat around a table, you’re all chatting and talking to each other, but you don’t circulate with anybody else, then that group that was around the table would be high risk contacts, everybody else would be regarded as low risk. And we would just notify the venue as a venue of interest, and ask the rest of the people there to be aware that they were there at the time and to be vigilant about reporting symptoms, should they develop them?

Unknown Speaker 46:01
Okay, okay. My second question is for the Education Minister, please.

Unknown Speaker 46:09
Good evening.

Unknown Speaker 46:10
Good evening. And so firstly, how many children and biochimie in high school are currently isolating?

Alex Allinson 46:17
Okay. At the moment, I understand that we got about 10, families self isolating there, on top of obviously, the the index case that we’re concerned about, these are close friends of the person that people in the same class, and we’ve got ongoing testing. And so far, I’m happy to say that those tests have come back negative. But we will be following this up. Because obviously, in a school environment, it’s very, very important that we guarantee the safety both to those pupils, their families, but also staff.

Unknown Speaker 46:46
Just as a follow up question, how soon were the families notified? And once they found out,

Alex Allinson 46:53
they were notified straightaway, I mean, what the contact tracing team have been doing is is textbook contact tracing, we’ve got a positive case, we’ve then looked at the household and try to see whether that has spread throughout the household. Unfortunately, it has spread to two young, young person. And so we’ve then gone back in time to see it when they could possibly have developed the infection. What we’ve been isolated is one day that the Friday the last day before half term, where it is technically possible that they could be infected. Although that time they had no symptoms at all, neither did any of their family members. So we’ve then looked at them, we’ve then looked at very close contacts, as Dr. uutta has described, to try to narrow down any further risk from there from there on. So it is true detective work in this stage. But we’re confident that we’re doing all the right things, we’ll see meeting all the right people liaising with them very, very quickly. And also, I’d like to say, as I said, previously, the contact tracing team have been dealing with this extremely sensitively, because we’re talking about young people, we have to try to put ourselves in the situation of some of these families, they didn’t want to get COVID, they they certainly didn’t want to spread COVID to either friends or family. So we were working with them very carefully to look after their own health, but also obviously do that in a very sympathetic and sensitive way. Okay,

Howard Quayle 48:19
thanks very much, Helen. And thank you all for those questions. And just on the last point, Helen, obviously, we’ve said this is a low risk. It’s not high risk, but because it’s always best to make people even more vigilant than normal. If your child or your family friend was at any of the locations and they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID, then please don’t take it for granted that it’s just a cold ring 111 I think that’s really important. It is low risk, what we’re just trying to be extra vigilant in certain locations. So again, thank you all very much for the questions. At the moment. It is not my intention to hold a briefing tomorrow. Unless the situation changes significantly. We may see more cases with a clear link to existing ones over the weekend. The council of ministers will continue to closely monitor the situation and will meet as and when required. If there is a material change. I will of course keep you updated. Thank you all everyone. Enjoy your weekend. Bye bye

Michael Josem is a long-term consumer advocate, most prominently as a global leader in combating fraud in the online gambling industry. He was in part the inspiration for the 20th Century Fox Movie, Runner Runner, starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.

Josem has over a decade of experience as a senior business leader working across various high-tech and online industries, and takes action to build a better community. His primary volunteer roles include service for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Graih, the homelessness charity.