This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government’s Coronavirus Media Briefing held on Friday 5 March 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”).
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Howard Quayle 0:04
Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for joining us today. He with me at the podium is the Minister for Education, sport and culture. And on zoom, we have the Minister for health and social care and our Director of Public Health. Let me start by handing over to minister Ashford for an update on testing numbers from the last 24 hours. And I know David also has some updates. David.
Unknown Speaker 0:28
Thank you, Chief Minister. The total number of tests undertaken is 34,538. At the point the snapshot was taken, all of those tests have been concluded. So at the time, the snapshot, the snapshot, there was no one awaiting test results. The total number of new cases in the last 24 hours is 59. bringing our total case count to 605. We have 163 active cases, and we have two of those active cases in hospital. In terms of other dates in light of the current outbreak with India, within the only Ireland within DHS say we have had to assess our medical services, and what services we can continue to operate safely. With the increasing numbers of people having to self isolate. This has naturally had an effect on our staffing as well. We will be focusing on urgent and emergency care for the foreseeable future, including our COVID response of testing and vaccinating, and we’ll redeploy staff as necessary to keep those services running. We will be continuing with counselling screening services, and we ask people to continue to attend those appointments. outpatients diagnostics and electives will be restricted to urgent and emergency only for now. And we will reassess this at the end of next week. The winter period always presents difficulties around the number of side rooms we have in the hospital. As winter often means more infectious diseases being treated in hospital, which also require people to be isolated in a side room. It has come to the point where we need to open additional capacity to allow more side rooms to be made available to accommodate our COVID positive patients. Those in hospital that we suspect may test positive and those required to isolate due to recent travel and also those with other infections that require isolation. As a result, we have decided to open Ward nine team otherwise sometimes known as the private patient units, initially to seven beds to provide these additional side rooms. In order to staff this area. We have made the difficult decision to suspend elective orthopaedic surgery in order to release staff from Ward 12 to staff Ward 90. We’ve decided to adopt this plan over several others proposed as it allows major elective operations such as cancer and clinically urgent surgery to continue. And it does not affect the running of the Women’s Health Board, which is Ward four. We asked the patients do not contact the hospital to confirm whether that procedure is going to head as administrative staff are currently working through the boobs operations over the coming weeks and discussing clinical urgency with the consultant surgeons. We hope that everyone will have received a phone call in the first half of next week. Due to the unknown length of the lockdown, we are not able to provide a new date at this point for cancer patients. However, we hope to confirm an alternative date as soon as possible. Where possible we will be moving clinical consultations online using virtual clinics, daycare services and facilities have also been suspended. But with support for severely hurt vulnerable families and service users continuing. These measures are necessary to ensure health services can remain resilient and focus on the COVID response and all the measures in place will be reviewed weekly. I also know there’s been some confusion online over the use of grandparents and relatives for fire for childcare purposes. After last night’s announcements over school closures. We are advising children from different household should not mix. So what does that actually mean for essential workers under the regulations. If you are an essential worker and you have to go to work, and there is no one in your home to look after the children. You can still use grandparents or close relatives for childcare purposes to cover when you’re at work. What it means is there should not be children from multiple households being cared for at the same time. This rule does not however, include the children to ordinarily live in a household where the care is being given. So for example, this does not mean if your sister or brother or ex partner has children of their own They can’t care for your child. What it means is they can’t look after children of multiple different relatives from different households. At the same time, it is limited to care of children from one household being cared for by one or the household.
Unknown Speaker 5:20
I also know speaking of children, this is a worrying time for many young children in our community, with the way the virus has spread amongst young people, and who might be frightened, and not necessarily understand what is going on. So I just like to reassure all those children out there, that it is perfectly normal to feel anxious or even scared. And please do talk to your parents and other adults about any concerns or worries that you may have. These are scary times for all of us. But this won’t last forever. We will return to normal. And you will get back to your day to day routine of school, and meeting with friends and doing all the things that you love to do. So for now, we have to do things a little different from normal. And that will seem strange. But please don’t worry, things will go back to the way they were. It will just take a little time. Also, in closing before handing back to the Chief Minister, can I ask that people remember that our essential services, such as pharmacies and shops are operating under great strain at the moment. Unfortunately, there has been an uptick in reports of people being abusive to workers in these settings. I know we were all frustrated by the court restrictions. But please, let’s show our community kindness to our frontline workers that our island is so lightly proud of. I’ve also been contacted by people who have tested positive offset by some comments on social media, that they feel it’s being portrayed as if they must have done something wrong. In order to contract the virus. The virus is a dreadful disease that no one wants to contract. And even with the best precautions, there is always a risk that any of us come down with us. So please think of the impact on others before you post. And let’s think about those who have who are trying to cope with this virus, who are having to go through isolation and trying to recover from the virus as well. And again, show them the community kindness, of which we are also proud. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 7:35
And thank you very much, David for that update. As you can see cases continue to rise fast. This morning, the team told me that we are now dealing with around 700 close contacts of people who have tested positive. This is an increase of around 200 in the last 24 hours. The advice that the Council of Ministers was given this morning is that we are still not at the peak of cases. There is more to come. And I need you to be ready for that. Yesterday we heard from our Director of Public Health that all of the cases we’ve seen in recent weeks have been the Kent variant. We know that the canned variant is highly transmissible. This is one of the key reasons that we judge that we had to take the difficult decision to go into this lockdown. And this is why we need to be incredibly careful in everything we do at the moment. I know that this third lockdown is tough, but the way that we ensure that ends as soon as possible is to follow the rules as tightly as possible. This is in your hands. I will hand over to our Director of Public Health in a second for her update. Before I do, I would like to pick up on something that caught my attention at the Council of Ministers briefing this morning. In relation to the increase in positive tests. I think we need to be careful when we compare the numbers we are seeing now with the numbers we saw back during our first outbreak almost a year ago. Last time, we did not have the on islands testing capacity we do now. It is true that we are finding more at the moment, but we are looking harder and testing more. Over the next couple of days we will be sharing with you some different graphs so that you can look at some of the data yourself. Let me hand over to our Director of Public Health for her view on what we are seeing. Doctor you it.
Henrietta Ewart 9:29
Thank you, Chief Minister. So today in order to help us understand what we’re seeing, I wanted to go through with you a bit of a breakdown of the actual numbers that we have as active cases. So as Minister Ashford shared with us, we currently have 160 active cases. And those break down into three which are people who’ve travelled who are in self isolation. Then we have 64 locally acquired but cases that we can link to the known cluster And then 24, at the moment that are unexpected, unexplained, we can’t link to the pastor. And then there are another 69, where contact tracing is still ongoing. Then if we start looking at the age group, we see that 70 of the 160 active cases are in children and young people aged between naught and 19. Most of the remaining cases are in adults up to age 54. And there are actually very few cases in those aged over 55. And none at all in those aged 80 or over. So, what we can take from that is, although this outbreak started with adult infections, it very quickly moved into households where the children and the children became infected, the children were out and about at social events, extracurricular events, men in schools. So this is how we’ve ended up with a situation where it appears that children and young people are now the driver of the transmission. If we look at occupation, 65 of the cases are in fact students or school children, and 11 are school staff, teachers and childcare staff, who have obviously been in contact with those children. So we’re seeing a very clear pattern there. with not much that is obviously being driven from other groups, we’re not seeing a driving of transmission from construction workers, for example, we have over 30 office workers who are current cases, but they tend not to be linked, they’re dispersed across different office settings. And clearly the obvious thing that we need to think about there is actually really reinforcing the work from home message to stop those interactions if they’re not absolutely essential. Okay, thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 12:04
Okay, thank you very much, Doctor, you. And please pass on my thanks to your team and all colleagues who are working so hard to identify and isolate the virus. Now, Doctor, you had mentioned the fact that we are seeing large numbers of cases among our young people. This is why we took the tough decision last night to close our schools today to create a firebreak. The virus spreads when people mix and so we need to do all we can to minimise that mixing, we need to break the chains. And I need to reiterate that if you have children, please do not let them mix with children from other households wherever possible. This is crucial to prevent transmission and to let us get out of this lockdown as soon as possible. I would now like to bring in the Minister of Education, sport and culture to give us an update. Alex,
Alex Allinson 12:55
thank you, Chief Minister. The Council of Ministers acted decisively last night when it became apparent that the safety of our schoolchildren have been compromised, increasing cases amongst pupils and a range of locations left no alternative. I apologise for the disruption This is caused to families and students. Only four days ago, we identified the first pupil who become infected almost certainly at home. Since then, the virus has been brought into a number of schools on the island. My concern last night was the risk that schools might be feeding the spread of the virus into our community. The safety of our children, teaching and support staff has been and continues to be our paramount concern. We need to do all we can to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. But we must also weigh up the consequences of the actions we take and the wider impact that may have on our society. Last night, putting in place a firebreak to stop the chain of infection in our schools was determined is an important and we hope effective way to reduce community transmission. contact tracing and testing will continue but self isolation and breaking the person to person spread of covid 19 remain our best weapon to get on top of the current situation. The council of ministers will be meeting over the weekend to review how we can ensure this action does not in any way compromise frontline service delivery on ensure we update all those affected families ahead of next week. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 14:32
Thank you very much, Alex. And as you say the Council of Ministers will be meeting over the weekend so that we can give families as much notice as possible of what next week will look like. When we consider the date of this morning. One of the big concerns was around office workers as Dr. Yu it has just mentioned. This was the other environment where we saw considerable spread. This has to stop. I once again have to ask all employers to ensure that only people who are absolutely essential, go into the office. If we need to legislate on this, we will. But I hope that employers will make the right decisions for their community and their island. And if people believe that their employers are acting unreasonably and putting them at risk, then they should contact WorkSafe at golf dot i am. The Council of Ministers this morning considered what else we need to do to break the chains of infection. We carefully considered advice from public health and others, we have decided to make some changes and I want to go through them now. We have decided and you may have seen an announcement earlier today that we will require all construction work to cease for an initial two week period. While we have not seen particular hotspots relating to construction, we do want to remove as much risk as possible of transmission. We are contend for those who work outside and alone or with one other person. So builders window cleaners, outdoor painters and gardeners For example, to continue for the moment, provided that it has no more than two people with full mitigations including masks and social distancing in place. Work on vacant properties as permitted subject to that two person rule, work on critical national infrastructure can continue. Construction workers who are now unable to work may be able to claim the max earnings replacement allowance from Monday and announcement earlier in the week. The mirror that mirror has been increased from this for this circuit break by 30 pounds per week to 230 pounds per week. This includes workers who are employed but either made redundant laid off or placed on no pay by their employer and the self employed who are unable to carry out their work due to these latest restrictions. Further information about the eligibility criteria for claiming mirror and the link to the online application form is available on gov.im or queries can be directed to the dedicated helpline on 648125. That’s 648125. employees in the construction industry, who now find that they are experiencing a reduction in revenue of at least 25% may be able to claim the salary support payments to assist with salary cost for their employees. For this circuit break, this has to be increased by 30 pounds per week to 310 pounds per week per full time equivalent. We have covered that the way to break the chain of transmission is to stop mixing. I know there is a thriving buy, sell and exchange community on the island. For now, this activity will need to pause. These changes will come into effect from midnight tonight. Now I know that this will cause disruption. But once again, we need to minimise mixing to stop spread. We will of course regularly review. And as we have said before, we only keep measures in place for as long as we judge that they are necessary. Before I go to questions from the media, I would like to pick up on a really important point. For many of you staying at home is not easy. And for some it might be impossible. If you find yourself in that position, help is on hand. Anyone that is experiencing domestic abuse in their own home, you must not suffer in silence. It is not an offence to move to another property to flee domestic abuse. If you’re living in fear of violence, then please call 999 and ask for help. Victim support and women’s aid. Both offer help and support. So if you or someone you care about needs support, please give them a call. And the numbers are on the screen. Let’s go to questions from the media. And first we have Rob Prichard from three FM Good afternoon, Rob faster. My
Unknown Speaker 19:09
Good afternoon, Chief Minister. But first question I just want to go back to this points been raised a few times about the timing of announcements we had to late last night one about the bridge and and Laxey being a high risk venue and of course schools as well. This will have given parents and carers very little time to make arrangements in terms of their children. Surely Do you accept that with these late nights announcements, there has to be a change from yourselves in government to make these announcements sooner so that people can actually prepare where possible and adapt more quickly.
Howard Quayle 19:40
Well, I can’t accept that. I want to do that. Rob, I hasten to add but I can’t accept the implied criticism because we don’t get the figures are off the cases until late at night. That’s just the way it happens. So we don’t intentionally think we were getting these figures at two o’clock on the Afternoon, let’s not have a meeting till 910 o’clock at night, the minute we get this data, the officers ring me, I set up a meeting of Council of Ministers, I think I found out about nine by 930. I had all the ministers online, we had a good discussion, we agreed that we had to take this action straight away. Now we were faced with two options, one, do nothing and wait until the morning by which case, parents have got no notice. And this the schools are about are closed, and they’ve got no chance of making any provision. Or B, we put out an urgent press release this as soon as we possibly can, advising people now I know it’s late. That’s not how we want to operate. But faced with the choice of either waiting till the following morning and giving very little time at all, or going out the night before we felt it important to do it late at night. No, it’s not something we want to do. But that’s just the reality of the life we’re living at this moment. I think Alex might like to speak on this. And I think David might like to come into So Alex, first
Alex Allinson 20:58
thing if you’ve been starting out. And I think as I said he, in my address, we had to act decisively. On Monday night, when we found the first pupil or one of our schools had contracted Coronavirus. We communicated that, and then gradually close schools down the following day. And that was the right thing to do. At that point, when we had one case, what we were faced last night was widespread cases across a wide variety of locations, in terms of childcare, including somewhere where we have some quite vulnerable children. And that was the reason for the concern. Now I regret any inconvenience to parents. But I hope they will acknowledge that this had to be done very, very quickly. Because as I’ve already said, I’m not prepared to allow a young child, a young person or in fact, one of our valued members of staff to walk into a school, which we know could be unsafe. So we have to act really quite quickly and make that difficult decision last and then communicate it as much as possible. I’m certainly grateful to the media for putting out the press release and broadcasting this on radio and through the social media sites.
Howard Quayle 22:10
David, would you like to comment on that?
Unknown Speaker 22:12
Yeah, if I may, Chief Minister, I mean, the lab is processing results continuously, and that’s late into the night as well. So there are sets of results we don’t get the result from from the lab till at nine o’clock at night. What happened last night was the picture only really began to sort of emerge of how widespread This problem was, particularly around children at around about 8pm. Last night, as the chief minister said he was notified I think just before nine then a council of ministers was convened within literally within 30 minutes of that, to make the decision around schools. And the press release. I’ve gotten a tonne of press release, eventually, one day out. But it wasn’t much after the Council of Ministers had finished. So we did literally get the communication out to the public, pretty much in real time that the decision was taken. Or Fortunately, there will be some times these late nights and again, I think I’ve discussed it here. It’s a damned if you do damned if you don’t. If we don’t go out and save it to the next day, then people are already getting the children ready for school. People have already got their routine or for that day maybe even already underway. We needed to take decisive action. So we put it out as quickly as we knew the situation. But unfortunately, that was a late hour at night. And as this situation emerges, there will always be occasions where some things will need to be announced late at night or early in the morning.
Howard Quayle 23:33
I hope that reassures you Robert course we don’t want to make a habit of this. Sadly, we don’t seem to get data at nine o’clock in the morning at A civilised hour. It seems to be late at night, and we have to react straight away for the benefit of everyone. But I do appreciate it on settling. But we do stand by the fact that we felt it was right to go out last night rather than wait until this morning for all the reasons that we’ve given. Okay, Rob, your next question.
Unknown Speaker 23:59
Give me a second question. Again, just with regards to children and young people, given the stories of sending the like to the UK and beyond for more children and teenagers suffering with long COVID what support will be available here to young people in that regard. Okay, Alex, would
Howard Quayle 24:13
you like to go into that? And then David might want to expand on that.
Alex Allinson 24:17
Yeah, I mean, from a medical point of view, and I’m sure, Mr. Ashford and Dr. York can also comment on this, that the whole essence of long COVID is still at a developing field. We know in adults, it can be up to 10% of people who have residual symptoms going on for six weeks or longer. And in fact, the Chief Minister has commented on his own symptoms the way those have gone on, we’re still not quite sure how much it affects younger people and children because often they have a much milder illness, but there are total evidence of people constantly having sort of fatigue and other symptoms, muscle aches and pains afterwards. Now obviously what this needs is a multidisciplinary approach using decent diagnosis. Making sure they don’t have any other complaints of their Coronavirus, infection, but also using things like psychological and work physiotherapy and occupational therapy. And certainly this is something that only the paediatricians and ovals hospital, are very aware of. I hope it won’t be a major problem on our island. But certainly we have the facilities here to deal with young people with complex problems. And that may in the future, perhaps include those people who develop the long term complications of Coronavirus?
Howard Quayle 25:31
Thank you, Alex. David, is there anything you’d like to add? And up to it?
Unknown Speaker 25:35
Yeah, just before bringing in the Director of Public Health Chief Minister, and I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’m wrong. But certainly from what I’ve seen around this, but long COVID. While there’s evidence base for adults emerging, the evidence for children at the moment was long COVID seems to be very light, that doesn’t seem to be the same effect or after effects of the virus in children that have been seen in adults. It’s certainly not widespread in the way that it is with adults, with some people, for instance, reporting that that taste and smell does not return, or those who are suffering aches and pains, or even breathing difficulties with long COVID. That evidence base doesn’t seem to be there for children. So it’s looking at the moment but again, the evidence is out because this is this is a new virus by learning over time. But certainly, from what I’ve seen, the evidence at the moment suggests that in relation to long COVID It’s a bit like the virus itself. It has less of an effect on children while being the Director of Public Health. And
Henrietta Ewart 26:33
yes, I don’t really have very much to add to that, since you summarised it very clearly, the evidence base just isn’t there at the moment. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 26:42
Okay, thank you all for contributing to that multi layered answer for Rob. Now we move on to Tim Glover from Manx radio. Good afternoon, Tim faster, my
Rob Pritchard (3FM) 26:53
best my Obviously, we’ve got the twin problems of people self isolating. For example, we heard from the Chief Constable Gary Roberts today that he has over 50 offices in isolation. And we’ve also got people unable to work because of childcare issues. So I guess, with our vital services, including shops, including emergency services, including the testing team and 111 scene, is the answer here that we’ve got to find some sort of childcare solution to it. Otherwise, these services may be in danger of being overwhelmed somewhat.
Howard Quayle 27:30
Yeah, Tim, you’re absolutely right. And that’s what the I’ve asked for a subcommittee of the Council of Ministers to work on between now and tomorrow, so that the Council of Ministers can consider this. I don’t know, Alex, if you want to
Alex Allinson 27:42
discuss that. Yeah, I’m, I mean, Tim, we know the childcare is incredibly important for those frontline services. And as you say, That’s health and social care, the police fire Ambulance Service, but but also essential retail, and also essential finance as well. And it goes right across the the field. And it’s very important the services and continue, we’ve also got some very vulnerable children who will need some accommodation. So certainly the Department of Education, support and culture, we working with the Department for health and social care, to see what we can put together for next week, we’re obviously going to watch the situation over the weekend, and see how it hopefully improves or develops, and we will need to get something into place. So those key workers can go back to work next week, and can keep those services going.
Howard Quayle 28:31
Before I bring in others anything David would like to add to that. But I just want to be clear, we cannot see the numbers that we’ve been having a reason in the first lockdown. We only had about 300 pupils using our schools in April of last year, in January, we’re up to 600. At the start of this week, when we locked down, we were 800. And clearly that’s not acceptable. We don’t have that many people that need their children to go into the schools. It really must be for absolutely key services where people have no other other care. And they’re providing a really important frontline service, as Alex has just described. David, was there anything you wanted to ask? You’re on that committee too?
Unknown Speaker 29:14
Yeah, it’s just really it’s just really to say Chief Minister, hope schools really do need to be focused on those who have to deliver essential services to the islands. So I know it’s frustrating for many families. And it’s not easy having the children at home and trying to potentially work from home at the same time. But for the time being, it is important that we call the transmission chain within young people. We have seen a transmission chain with the and again, there’s antidotal evidence which is still building with the kaempferia that in terms of children passing it to each other. There is some transmission there. It’s still perhaps lower than adults, but there is more transmission and there was perhaps with the previous variant of COVID. So it is important that we try to minimise interactions as much as possible, and I think that that will be the crucial thing to us actually preventing further further onward transmission and bringing this particular bout of COVID to an end. Thanks,
Howard Quayle 30:13
Tim, your next question.
Rob Pritchard (3FM) 30:15
Can I sorry, I meant to do this at the beginning sequences to clarification before my next question, because the Director of Public Health said 160 active cases, and the health minister said 163. And we don’t really want a debate rumbling on social media about that this evening. So to have some clarification on that weighs over
Unknown Speaker 30:36
the figures, the figures I’ve got with me, Tim, which I was handed, which I was given at 314, this afternoon show 163 161 in the community and two in hospital. But maybe maybe they go back to public health has more data than I did. No,
Henrietta Ewart 30:52
you’re absolutely right, I’ve got a less updated figure than you. My figure was from 10am. But my figure is the only one that has so far been broken down into all the categories that I was able to take us through. So I should maybe have just started off by saying as at 10am this morning, but that is the situation for the figures that I ran through that was based on a 160 cases that had been identified at that point. And having been watching the lab feed that goes on through the day, announcing the new cases. I am aware, like you that we’ve had extra cases during the day bringing this up to the revised figure, and no doubt it will have gone higher before the end of the day. Thank you.
Rob Pritchard (3FM) 31:35
Thank you. Thanks for that second question that you’ve said, obviously, this latest lockdown has been driven by the camp variant that you’ve always in the past said that the strain would never dictate the response. So just want to question the response radio. Has it been in a box like we’ve had the other lockdowns before, so you treat it that way, you’ve got a pattern or people just coming to me saying it seems very reactive this time rather than proactive. So we need to be a little bit more nimble and flexible?
Howard Quayle 32:09
Well, I would, I would say that we’ve shut down pretty quick Tim, where compared with other jurisdictions with this one, we’re where we’re at, we’re learning all the time, first and foremost. And we had prepared a light touch COVID-19 ready to go straight away, where we allowed as many businesses to carry on work, obviously, we’ve got to be concerned about the economy, people’s mental health, etc. However, this has the cat variant has moved incredibly quick and we had to be very quickly and reactive to this. So book while still trying to enable people to go about their, their lives as much as possible and and carry on their businesses. So it’s, yeah, it’s literally you know, none of us are perfect. We were doing our very best here to deal with this. The can variant is highly transmissible, and we’ve got to you know, be ready for that. And we’ve we’ve tried to prepare for that and, and learn from other jurisdictions. And one of the reasons we moved so fast last night, is that we’ve seen what had happened to our good friends in Guernsey when they had a similar outbreak and the closing of all the homeschools etc. was something that they also did too. I don’t know, David or Alex if you want to add to that.
Alex Allinson 33:22
And then No, no cheapens throwing up. I think what we’ve tried to do off from the experience of the last two lockdowns is learn lessons to nuance the reaction reaction, we had, as you say, a whole range of measures that we could bring in this time. It became quite obvious by Monday night that really, the way the number of cases was accelerating, wasn’t like anything we’d seen before in the last two lockdowns. And so that’s why we’ve had to, to react very quickly and decisively trying to get on top of the situation very quickly, as opposed to last time of bringing in things far more gradually.
Howard Quayle 34:00
And David, anything.
Unknown Speaker 34:02
Yeah, I think an important point to make trip ministers. I think we did act very quickly and very decisively on Saturday, when we realised there was an issue last Saturday, we immediately advise places that where the you know, should abandon events.
Unknown Speaker 34:15
Everything was all right. On Sunday, though, Minister,
Unknown Speaker 34:18
and then it Yeah, but what what we see is things gradually build with this term, and that’s the thing. And as soon as that situation changed, which was Monday, then basically we shut down because we have to remember the cases we are seeing comments into the system now aren’t brand new infections. They are from people who are now presenting symptomatically and are being wider tested, which would have been seeded in the community probably over well over a week ago. So with so we’re going to continue to see an uptick of numbers. But as it takes, as I spoke about in the first outbreak last year, where I spoke about the fact that takes five to eight days for things to feed into the data because of the incubation periods and the way COVID operates. So the actual effects of the measures we brought in on Monday, for instance, won’t really feed in and actually be seen in the data until probably around about Tuesday, Wednesday of next week. With the kamberi. And being more transmissible like I say, we managed, I think to react pretty quickly. And there was criticism on Saturday for us advising places to close in some courses. And I think now it’s showing that it was a justified decision to make. And I think we did act quite quickly and decisively. And as soon as the problem emerged on one day, again, council of ministers met on multiple occasions, including late at night, and to the decisions necessary.
Howard Quayle 35:39
Yeah, before I move on to Alex, I just like to point out to him that on Sunday, we had received data that every person who had been deemed a high risk had been tested of the when we thought we had a problem on Saturday, and they’d all come back as negative. And that’s why we felt it was okay to lift the restrictions and tell people to go their normal life on Sunday. However, the way this virus works, it hit back on Monday, and we realise we had to go for the full lockdown, which we did. Anyway, next, we have Alex Bell from BBC Isle of Man. Good afternoon, Alex faster. My
Alex Bell 36:15
Thank you. Just to pick up on a point which I raised at yesterday’s conference with the health minister, I’ve been contacted today by a number of people who are very concerned about the amount of time it’s taking for them to get booked in for a test. We appreciate there is an overwhelming demand on testing services at the moment. But just wondering At what point whether you consider it prudent to increase the testing capacity on the abdomen?
Howard Quayle 36:44
David would like to comment on that.
Unknown Speaker 36:46
Yeah, I’m happy to comment on that. The issue really is around getting people booked in our acts. As you know, 111 has been under a lot of pressure. The testing capacity is 840. We cannot back to 1000, if necessary. But there has also been pressures in the system with a large volume of people happen to be booked, I know additional resources being given to World War One so that they can contact people and arrange the testing. So it’s not necessarily the swabbing capacity, the lab has been continuing to operate. And there is capacity there. But we’ve got to get people arranged booked in. And that has caused problems because of the sheer volume with the schools that have been have to do on at any one time. But I know 111 has got additional resource in place, and people are being booked in.
Unknown Speaker 37:33
Alex Bell 37:34
So a question for the education ministry as well, if I may. And Dr. Owens, and it’s been two weeks since we had our first case of COVID here. And that quickly spread to young people. Did the department miss a crucial opportunity to take action on schools?
Alex Allinson 37:53
Well, the first case in any young person was picked up on Monday night, that’s four days ago. And we have acted decisively since then to close down schools and adopts the hub system initially, which was part of our plan. And then unfortunately, last night with the increasing number of cases in young people, we needed to go further. So I think you have to put this in perspective Previous to that those young people who contracted Coronavirus, we’re actually already in self isolation with their household groups. Monday night was the first time we actually got a case in a young person that wasn’t identified to a previous case. And that’s why we had to take decisive action and actually close down our education service move completely now to remote learning. Thank you. Okay.
Howard Quayle 38:38
Thank you very much, Alex. Next question. We have a Simon Richardson from business 365. Good afternoon, Simon. Faster. My
Simon Richardson 38:45
Good afternoon. My first question please is for Mr. Ashford. Minister with regards to the vaccination programme problems which you spoke of yesterday. Now I understand the GPS computer system MS is able to categorise patients automatically whereas the DH SC is using Medway, which is the hospital system which is unable to communicate with Ms. So and I think you confirm this pre briefing actually, the department has asked GPS to gather information for categories of people to send for manually. Now this you would imagine has the capacity to introduce errors and assumes the data has been entered correctly. Are you confident that any problems that arise can be quickly overcome?
Unknown Speaker 39:33
Yes, I am. We’ve asked for a manual check to be done of the GPS records and I’d like to thank the GPS for working with us. This is a mass immunisation programme and vaccinate. So your vaccination programme I should say that has never been seen in the same human history on this scale. So a stressful time I would like to thank the GPS for working with us to make sure that our patients can be protected. The EMA system is the date system for the GPS, they are the data owners of that data, not the HSC and dhsc, as you rightly say, uses Medway my understanding is that it’s drawn from enormous the list of patients. And it’s an issue with, with the actual system itself and its searching facility, I need to strap salutely stress, this is not an issue of the GPS, the GPS have done absolutely nothing wrong in this process. In fact, they are, you know, they are working hard to help us to make sure that everyone is accounted for. But it is an issue, I believe, with the software itself. So I’ve also we’ve asked for a manual check to be done, just to make sure that every single person has been picked up. And we are also not just doing that with the over 70s. We’re also doing it with the next cohort as well, to make absolutely sure this does not repeat. And once again, I can only apologise for anyone who feels they have been missed, the vaccination letters will go out to them. And also it will not substantially delay their vaccine. Because as I said, we are opening the numbers of people were vaccinating 1000 a day, for five days from next week, and also should be the following week. And therefore, since next week is already fully booked for registrants anyway, it would not have delayed them, they will still get an appointment at the time they would have done if the letter had been received.
Simon Richardson 41:24
Thank you. And secondly, for the chief minister, if I may. Chief Minister, it relates to the rules and regulations which have been updated and were talked about earlier, our children from separated partners still able to move between parents houses, if there is a child in the other house that already lives there.
Howard Quayle 41:44
Yes, absolutely. Simon, it’s the same as it was in the last lockdown. If you’re divorced, separated and you have parental rights to have your child for a certain period of time, then you are allowed to move the child to the other parent. However, we ask obviously you don’t go in the house, you drop the child off at the door and let them go when you don’t go in and mix yourself. But yes, the child is allowed to to move between parents and this was what we did in the Second Circuit break to Simon. But thank you very much good point to clarify to to let everyone know that that can happen. Okay, next we have is some Turton from Jeff. Good afternoon, Sam faster. My
Sam Turton 42:27
first my chief minister, we’ve heard from parents that some of their children have have what not classical symptoms for COVID. So back to the expertise view of the doctors on this in terms of Are there any other symptoms that people may see in children besides the classical ones? And what is the best treatment they can give them in terms of homework and things they may have at home? For instance, like paracetamol, ibuprofen, and what should they get them? What should they avoid? Right? Well,
Howard Quayle 42:51
I’ve got Dr. u 80. I think best to go first.
Henrietta Ewart 42:55
Thank you, Chief Minister. Yes, so first off symptoms in children. And yes, in young children, actually, similarly to the elderly, the symptoms may be a bit more nonspecific, unless you know the classic symptoms that we expect from COVID. So while things like temperature are still a common feature, a child may not be able to report whether or not they have a change in their sense of taste or smell, because they may not kind of be able to think that through if they’re quite young. And they may also not have quite such prominent features such as the cough, a lot of them do, actually, a lot of them do present with the new onset, continuous cough, but others will present with the more nonspecific things, you know, aches and pains, fluey symptoms, diarrhoea, nausea, that kind of thing, which indeed can also happen in adults. But the atypical presentation is more likely, as I say, both in the very young and in the very old. So if a parent is concerned, the best thing to do is to ring 111 to go through the clinical symptoms have to be a little bit careful about advising that too strongly, because if everybody who has a child who has any symptom at all rings 111, they will get very overburdened. And that will necessarily deflect them from dealing with the people who are ringing him with the core symptoms of COVID who therefore are much more likely to have COVID. But as always, if anyone is worried about symptoms in their child, you do need to report it and get help and support because children can get very ill very quickly, particularly the little ones. So nobody should be staying at home and worrying if they actually are concerned, they should contact their GP usually in the first instance or meds out of hours. Or if they do think it’s likely to be COVID particularly for example, if they’ve been identified as opposed to contact then 111 in terms of simple remedies. It’s the usual advice really Calpol for children. Keep them, you know, well hydrated and comfortable. And that’s really about it in the same way as it would be for any viral illness. Okay, thank you. Okay. Thanks
Howard Quayle 45:15
very much, Sammy. And I don’t want bother asking Dr. Allen’s and that I think that was quite a thorough description. So, Sam, your next question.
Sam Turton 45:24
Just Secondly, you said about limited number of people go into offices to a very minimum, we also have think of in Guernsey, they close takeaways as well. Is this a measure that the Council of Ministers has considered?
Howard Quayle 45:36
Well, obviously, it’s always best to learn and see what worked and look, look, look at what other jurisdictions do. Yes, we did discuss that today. And we didn’t think it was necessary. We’re not convinced it worked. In Guernsey, and an awful lot of people do rely. I’m not saying con cook won’t cook. But an awful lot of people do rely on food being delivered to their house to keep their families going. And we feel that as long as those people do the deliveries, and we are asking them to make sure they wear masks, they don’t hand the food over they, they put it at the doorstep, and they’re washing their hands regularly coughing into the crock of their arm or hanging etc. As long as they follow good hygiene, then it will be okay. So when we’re not looking at stopping home deliveries at this moment in time, I don’t know. David, if you want to add anything or doctor you add on that.
Unknown Speaker 46:27
Yeah, if I if I’m a chief minister, you know, there are people particularly when we have people who are in self isolation at the moment and quite large numbers of people who will be reliant on takeaways, we did consider this and looked at what was good and experiment was trading down in Guernsey to be perfectly frank, I mean, takeaway food delivery should be contactless anyway at the moment. So the meet the risk is actually minimal from that. So it could actually cause a higher impact on people, particularly with large numbers self isolating certain can’t go out shopping than what you would actually achieve by removing it. We’ve got no evidence of transmission and Western collateral public health can correct me I’m not aware, even in the previous two occasions last year, and in January of any form relief transmission from takeaway deliveries. So it was seen as actually causing more problems than it would actually fix if we were to go down that route. And I’ll bring in the Director of Public Health. Thank you, Minister.
Henrietta Ewart 47:27
Yes, absolutely agree with what you’ve just said, in terms of deliveries in general. So whether it’s a takeaway, a letter, a parcel, whatever, there is actually no evidence from anywhere to show that any actual specific transmission event has happened as a result of that. There’s a theoretical possibility because virus has been shown to survive on surfaces. But it has not been linked to any actual real world transmission, in terms of thinking about takeaways, and the fact that they’re prepared food. Again, there is no evidence that there has ever been foodborne transmission in the same way that there is, you know, obviously, we’re familiar with food poisoning episodes, and that those are sometimes linked to restaurants or catering outlets. We don’t have any evidence of that for COVID. So I suppose you know, the guidance is exactly as the minister said, it should be no touch. The delivery should be being left outside your door, the delivery person should be right back at the curbside before you come out and get it. When you take it in. If you’re particularly concerned, you can always wipe her sanitising wipe over the surfaces to make sure that you’ve removed any risk from that, but the risk from that would be low. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 48:46
Thanks very much, Sam. Now we move on to Paul Moulton of Alamin. Television. Good afternoon, Paul faster. My
Paul Moulton 48:52
Good afternoon. I will make chocolates. Right Friday, a teacher proved positive. It was announced on Saturday. At that point over the weekend. It was kind of very identified, I think, yeah, but help me out on this timeline. Because on Monday, again, we are not that’s the question I asked the time schools, we’re going back to school except for certain classes. When clearly if it was identified that stage we should have had all classes cancelled, all schools stopped. You said going in hard and fast was your policy. And it hasn’t been that way. This is a bullet that we could have dodged, is it not?
Howard Quayle 49:26
Right. I’ll ask Alex to.
Alex Allinson 49:28
Yes. Certainly. You can. You You’re you’re slightly incorrect. Paul. I mean, what what we’ve been clear on doing from the palm of education, sporting culture point of view, and the entire government’s point of view, is reacting to evidence and data. On Friday night, we did identify somebody who works in a school as being a positive case. However, they don’t work in the school during the school time, their work out of hours. They were on a contact traced and it was judged that they were not in contact with any children at the school during that time, and that was classed as low risk. Furthermore, because that was on a Friday, we think on 72 hours with that school, the head teacher wasn’t was alerted. Understand, we put in measures to to reassess the risk for that school on Monday morning. And again, there was not seem to be a significant risk to close that school down. So to put the chronology right, again, we’ve got cases of Coronavirus coming into the school, rather than necessarily the school being a source of infection. The reason we had to take decisive action last night, was that a change that now the concern was that people were actually going into schools that were open, and there was the risk that they would get the infection there and bring it out into the community. And so that was the change last night, that unfortunately made us take this decisive action to close down the childcare and education service.
Paul Moulton 50:57
Let me just pull this up. Do you regret not shutting schools on Monday,
Alex Allinson 51:02
what we did on Monday is make a good assessment of the risk involved. When we found that a case of a child who attended school on Monday evening after the school lunch, a chart, we close schools down the next day in a phased approach that had been agreed with the teachers, and which is the right way of doing it. Last night was different because of the real impressment unconcern that we had widespread cases through a whole range of locations. And that’s why we had to our right to an awful lot quicker last night than we did on Monday night.
Paul Moulton 51:35
Okay, a second question. Gary Roberts, Chief Constable isn’t one for doing interviews and saying things unless he actually, I think has to his broker. And so I believe here but to say that there’s a major problem in the police force. They’ve got lots of people and I’ve had many calls myself about this a day. This is frontline workers. Once the steam packet, we’re allowed to have jobs, you’ve opened up that door surely to allow bus drivers, taxi drivers, the police, and was whatever the they chose to have that dope that dosage now, and if I could suggest, donate a dose might come in fashionable, if it’s even possible some person may not want to take their dose, but donated to a police officer. Is that something to think about?
Howard Quayle 52:16
No, I’ve thought I’ll bring in others on this one, too, Paul. But I think it’s important to say that the vaccine, well, if we were to vaccinate all the people based on the island, who do our emergency services ahead of our more vulnerable, we would not stop them necessarily getting COVID-19 we wouldn’t stop them necessarily spreading it on COVID-19, they would have to isolate. The reason was that we gave it to the steam Packers that they were mixing with people who were on and off from the United Kingdom. They’re the different crew. And we were concerned about the resilience there. So obviously, if if a policeman or police lady or a nurse or a doctor the level if they have beat the criteria to have already had a vaccine, then they will they will get it. We are moving quickly through our vaccination process now, and we hope with the extra 10,000 vaccines and 1000 a day that we can quickly give the support to all of our emergency services. But it has to be remembered that the vaccine is there to protect the life of the individual who is really at risk of potentially dying or getting seriously ill from COVID-19. I don’t know, David, if you’d like to expand on that and maybe doctor you would.
Unknown Speaker 53:29
Yes, thank you, Chief Minister. This goes back to what we discussed at yesterday’s pre from Paul, around the way the vaccine programme is set up. The vaccine programme is not based on someone’s likelihood of contract and COVID-19. It is based on their vulnerability should they contract us. So the priority groups are around those who are most likely to become seriously ill or die from COVID. And it is important we stick to that it’s not possible for people to donate a dose. And if people do people can’t do that the doses for them because they have been prioritised according to their needs either be at age vulnerability or medical vulnerability. Now in terms of resilience in workplaces, the vaccine doesn’t assist with that, because as the chief minister has said, the vaccine protects the person from becoming csdl. But it does not stop them contract and COVID-19 and although there is very welcome news coming out of studies, that it reduces transmission, it does not remove transmission. So for instance, if we use the police scenario, even if you had the entire police force vaccinated, they can still contract COVID-19 were they to contract it, they would still have to isolate. So we’re in the same way as people do now. So it does not actually help with the resilience in the police force having the police force vaccinated if there are officers that have underlying medical conditions, or by nature of their age of hon COVID-19. They will be prioritised for vaccination. Because they fall within the vulnerable groups. And that’s the same across all key worker groups. And I’ll bring in the Director of Public Health in case she’s got anything to like to add.
Henrietta Ewart 55:08
Thank you, Minister, that was very comprehensive and very well explained. And I don’t have anything that I can usefully add. Thank you. Well,
Paul Moulton 55:15
let me just come back quickly. The chief console does not do that lightly going into the public domain. He’s got no officers, potentially in a few weeks time. You’re asking the police to police without any policeman? If that makes any sense. You understand? You’re they’re the frontline people to make these laws that you bring bringing in to be obeyed. And they clearly have got an issue with staffing numbers that minute.
Howard Quayle 55:38
Yeah, absolutely. And I share the the chief constables concerns Paul, it’ll be the same with the fire brigade with the ambulance service, the prison service and other areas. You know, we this is a serious threat to the island. And we will do our best to to give what support we can to the the police force, but we’ve not seen any evidence that by vaccinating them now, we will stop the reduction in officers having to isolate it’s a it’s a, you know, it’s a dreadful position to be in I understand the chief constables concerns is quite right to be very concerned about his workforce and looking after their interests. And if we thought there was something that we could do from a vaccination point that would help solve the situation, then, of course, we would do our best to look after our hard working Police Service, who are at the frontline. But as I think, as the Health Minister has clearly stated, that won’t stop them from catching it, and they would still have to isolate. But are you concerned? I know, David, if you want to have a final say on this?
Unknown Speaker 56:39
Yes, if I can, Chief Minister, I’ll keep it very, very brief. But I think for what we’re talking about there in terms of pressures of staffing, and it is a concern I shared chickens supposed to send on that as well. We’ve got similar concerns and health. The answer to that isn’t necessarily vaccination. The answer to that may be testing pathways, where people as we’ve done with all the groups of workers can potentially come out of isolation earlier, if we had if we they have certain mitigations or testing pathways. And if we end with keys end up with key services under pressure. That’s the sort of route that I think we need to look at. It’s not vaccine that will actually fix that it’s potentially testing pathways,
Paul Moulton 57:19
you’re going to offer that service to the police and the fire brigade and whatever if they need it.
Unknown Speaker 57:23
It Well, like I say, If required, we would have to speak to them. And we would have to work out the solution. We similarly will have to do so in health, if the resilience for whatever reason, comes under pressure. But there has always been the ability for us to look at testing pathways. We use testing pathways for various groups of key workers, which allows them to go to work, and then back into isolation at the home after that they’ve completed their job. And we would have to look to see what we could put in place to ensure services keep wanting. Yeah.
Howard Quayle 57:53
Okay. Thanks very much, Paul. Now we move on to last but not least, I should say Helen McKenna from Alamin. newspapers. Good afternoon, Helen, faster. My
Helen McKenna 58:02
Good afternoon, Chief Minister. My question is probably for the health minister, but doctor, you this kind of draws on what Paul was saying, really, about priority groups vaccinations, well, under 16 be vaccinated sooner than plans due to the massive increase in this age group.
Unknown Speaker 58:22
Well, I’ll bring the Director of Public Health in a moment, at the moment, the vaccine still isn’t recommended for that particular age group. There’s there’s trials going on at the moment. So it may well change and they may well be recommended. When we have built into our into our vaccination programme, the ability to do so. So we here when I’ve mounts key dates, when I’ve mentioned about, for instance, the June July date for the entire population, that would be including children for their first dose, if it is recommended for them at that stage. So we at the moment, the advice is that anyone under that age group shouldn’t be vaccinated. But that may well change. As with everything that gets changed, and I’ll bring the Director of Public Health.
Henrietta Ewart 59:07
Thank you, Minister, as yet again, you’ve covered everything go very well there. The issue is course that the trials that led to the regulatory bodies, authorising the vaccines that we currently have those trials, the AstraZeneca trial did not include any body under 16. And the Pfizer trial didn’t include anybody under 18. I think I’ve got it the right way around, I might muddled it. But you get the point, the trial data that we currently have doesn’t cover children and young people, and the authorizations don’t cover children and young people for the same reason. So the trials, as the minister said are underway. When we get the results of those and the regulatory bodies if they accept the results of those as proving that the vaccines are safe and effective in younger people, then vaccine schedules will be changed, and we will offer it to children and young people. Thank you.
Helen McKenna 1:00:05
Thank you. My second question is probably for the chief minister, what was have to happen for government to declare a new states of emergency?
Howard Quayle 1:00:15
I suppose it really would be the number of unexplained cases in the community where we’re getting a lot of cases at the moment, but a considerable percentage of them are high risk contacts, we’re already isolating from the original case that that we found so sorry about that. So if we get a significant increase, and it’s sort of stabilised the last couple of days, the number of unexplained cases in the community, if we get a significant spread of those cases, and they’re in high risk settings, shall we say, then obviously, we would have to review the situation. I know, David, you would like to comment on that?
Unknown Speaker 1:00:54
Yeah, find a chief minister, the state of emergency, we have to remember that was there last year, that was a legislative tool, because the that at the time, the only legislation we had where we could bring in regulations quickly and efficiently was under the emergency powers act of 1936. Now that requires in order to activate that an emergency proclamation from the proclamation of emergency solely from the governor. And that was the mechanism in place. That’s why a state of emergency was declared so that we could bring in regulations under that act. Since then, we’ve amended a piece of legislation, the Public Health Act 1990, that allows for regulations to be brought in under that. And that’s what we’ve been using. So we would only really go back to actual physical declaration of emergency, if we needed to do something at the Public Health Act, as amended doesn’t allow us to do, we’re doing regulations under the emergency Powers Act would allow us to do. But Mo, we don’t need an actual physical proclamation of emergency this time, because we have all the legislative tools that we’ve put in place to future proof that we are able to use that moment.
Helen McKenna 1:02:03
Just drawing on the unexplained cases. Can you tell me how many since this lockdown began? How many unexplained cases have there been?
Unknown Speaker 1:02:15
So it’s in total, including the include of the active cases we’ve currently got? There’s 24, unexplained cases on the figures I have. So So locally acquired, but without with source, or no one? So at the moment, it’s 24.
Helen McKenna 1:02:33
Is that since lockdown began is that the exact number
Unknown Speaker 1:02:36
so that that’s of our active cases. So that includes the ones the cases at the start? So those early cases as well. So that’s pretty locked down. If you remember, we had a handful of cases where we didn’t actually know where they come from. So that includes those one of the encouraging things, don’t you give me an opportunity to say it is obviously yesterday, we had 21, or no, and it’s gone today to 24. So most of the cases we are starting to pick up now are people that we have identified potentially as high risk contacts and isolated. But like I say, the measures we’ve introduced this week, it’ll take to the middle of next week for the effect of them to be seen. So people should be prepared that they will be continuing to see case numbers rise and until the matter the effect of those measures correlate comes through in the data.
Helen McKenna 1:03:25
Howard Quayle 1:03:26
Okay. Thanks very much, Helen. And thank you all very much for your questions. Thank you for everything you were doing. Right now. The message is simple. Stay at home. This is the best thing you can do for your island and the essential services that keep us safe. The more people stay at home, the quicker we can bring this outbreak under control. It is in all our hands. If you do have to go out please wear a face covering as much as possible. If you feel any symptoms, please self isolate and call 111 as soon as possible. respect the rules and we will get through this. Please make the right decisions for you, your family and your island. Thank you all very much. I hope you have a nice weekend. Bye bye