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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 Monday 15 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”).

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.

I obviously do not own the copyright in the underlying words (eg, whatever has been said by the speakers) and I am providing these transcripts because they are of self-evident public interest. I think that I do own the copyright in the adaption/conversion into written text. I’m happy to license these transcripts publicly under a free and very open Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Howard Quayle 0:00
Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for joining us today. He with me at the podium is the Minister for health and social care. And on zoom, we have the Minister for Education, sport and culture, and our Director of Public Health. Thank you for making the right decisions over this last weekend. I know that it is not easy to live with the restrictions that are currently in place. I know that there are challenges and hardships. But what you are doing is making a difference. Let me start this briefing by asking the Minister for health and social care to give us today’s data. David,

David Ashford 0:33
thank you, Chief Minister, the total number of tests undertaken stands at 40,474. The total tests concluded also stands at 40,474, meaning that the lab has processed all the tests that they have received at the time of the snapshot. So there is no awaiting results. new cases identified in the last 24 hour period is 29. Bring our total cases to 1306. We have 847 active cases, and 14 of those cases are within the hospital. Thank you, Chief Minister.

Howard Quayle 1:10
Thank you very much, David. So the trend on the numbers is a continuing fall of new cases. And that is, of course, a good thing to say. And this is because of the measures in place, and the way that the great Manx public have responded, I will hand over to our Director of Public Health in a second for her update, and her analysis of what that numbers tells us. Just before I do, I would like to share an important point. I know many of you are carefully following the number of unexplained cases, like me, you will have noticed that they continue to pop up. Our director of public health will be able to bring more context to this. But we do know that some of this has been about people still going about their business, including going into the workplace when they are showing symptoms. This has to stop. As we’ve said at these briefings before responsibility here is twofold. Employers must ensure that they only require their employees to go into work if it is absolutely critical. They also need to ensure that the workplace is as safe as possible. for employees who are critical and who do need to go into work, they must not do so if they show the slightest symptoms. If you go into a workplace with COVID, you could be putting lives at risk, perhaps even your own. And you could be putting your organisation at risk. contact tracing recently had to entirely close our local business. Because of someone who had been going into work. Despite having COVID symptoms. We need to identify and isolate the virus. The more people stay at home and stop mixing between households, the sooner we will be able to do this. And then the sooner we will be able to remove measures. Let me pause and hand over to Dr. Ewart it for her view on what the numbers are telling us, Dr. Ewart.

Henrietta Ewart 3:10
Thank you, Chief Minister. So the news that we only had 29 new cases in the last 24 hours is obviously good news. And the curve is developing as we expect it to in that we now seem to be at least on the plateau, and possibly beginning to turn into the downward stretch, which is good, but we need to keep up all the mitigations all the things that we’re supposed to be doing as part of the circuit breaker to ensure that we keep going in that direction, and don’t end up with a very prolonged plateau or even worse arise. Now the we’re now nearly two weeks into the circuit breaker. So that’s nearly up to a full incubation period for the virus. And that means that if we’re all following the guidance for the circuit breaker, we really should be getting to the point where we’re not seeing unexplained unexpected new cases that have just popped up in the community. Our cases should be overwhelmingly linked to known high risk contacts, contacts, and largely in the context of people’s households. And while we certainly are seeing that spread in households, and that’s to be expected, we are still seeing rather more of the community cases than we would expect. So that of course does make us concerned that people are not following the guidance quite as much to the letter as they could and really need to be. Chief Minister has already spoken about the workplace issue. And the thing about the workplaces is that usually we will pick that up through contact tracing, admittedly after the horses bolted if you like because the person’s already been into the workplace, and transmission has occurred, but we do at least find out about that. Usually, the transmission we are much less likely to find out about is if people are still informally mixing between households. And the more that happens, the more that just keeps this outbreak going. And it’s more difficult for us to get on top of it to contact tracing, because we won’t be able to identify it. And therefore it can be going on outside what we know about and continuingly continuing to keep this outbreak going. So I really do have to stress what Chief Minister has just said that we all need to follow the guidance all the time, and not trying to justify things to ourselves that lets us think it’s okay if we just do this or that because actually it isn’t and we’ve become very into it really isn’t because it’s so much more transmissible. Thank you, Chief Minister.

Howard Quayle 5:49
Thank you very much, doctor you it. We’ve spoken about the pressures and our critical services. The Council of Ministers this morning heard about the considerable pressure our health system is working on. The vaccination programme is proceeding a pace, the team gave over 7000 doses last week, which is a great achievement. As we stand here, over 22,000 people on our island have had at least one dose, and over 75% of people in our first six priority groups have now been given not offered at least one dose. And I know this week is looking to be an extremely busy week to the swabbing and lab teams are also working at an impressive pace. Over the past week, they’ve done more than 4000 swabs and COVID tests. A lot of the testing this week has been in relation to existing high risk contacts. Over the last four days, over 900 people have taken their day 15 exit tests, and more will have done so today. As long as there is a negative result, it means that their self isolation can end and I would publicly like to thank those who followed the self isolation rules, you have played a crucial role in protecting our island. So despite the numbers pointing in a positive direction, the hospital does remain a concern. Any COVID case requires significant staffing and space in the hospital. Let me invite the health and social care minister to come back in to give you some more details on this, David.

David Ashford 7:23
Thank you, Chief Minister. In relation to the hospital we have Ward two and also the private patients units are sometimes referred to as Ward 19. Available for COVID cases. As the chief minister has said it does require significant staffing within those wards. And at the moment, the hospital is under pressure in terms of staffing with staff isolated from the hospital is coping and again, I would like to put on record my thanks to all of those working open nobles and across the wider health and social care community for all their hard work and dedication at this difficult time. In relation to ward two people have to be isolated off because they are COVID positive. And that does mean sometimes that there are restrictions in what they can do. Many of those within Ward two are receiving oxygen therapy, which means that they were required to remain in bed because they are not easily transportable and that mean includes to the facilities. So in some cases a commode etc may need to be used, because it is not practical or possible for that person to be transported transported with the oxygen supply that is required to be continuously administered to them. So we are stretched over the hospital. But the COVID Ward is operating our plans and resilience plans have been put in place. And we are using the private patients unit as a step down facility for those they’re moving out of Ward to before they go eventually go home. So again, I would like to thank all of the staff who’ve been working exceptionally hard in making sure that our COVID resilience has actually been working as expected. A couple of other points can I also give a reminder for people that even if they have had the vaccine, then they still need to follow the rules in place and the precautions the vaccine takes time to take effect and slowly builds not just over days, but also over weeks. So it is important that those who have been vaccinated still take precautions as they are not wholly free from risk from the current outbreak. Also the clinically vulnerable letters have started going out. Can I please remind people that if you are registering online for the vaccine, then you need to select the priority group drop down box the age 16 to 64 in a confirmed at risk group category and not their age group which may not occasionally allow for registration. So just a reminder again if you are registering due to receiving a clinically vulnerable letter when you go to the drop down group. For your priority group, it’s aged 16 to 64 in a confirmed at risk Group. Also as people’s age groups are reached, if they have been vaccinated as clinically vulnerable, then they will likely receive a second invitation letter. The clinically vulnerable lists were created via a manual process of GPS having to go through their records and identifying those who fitted those categories, as it is based on an individual’s personal medical history. The age based letters are generated simply on someone’s date of birth. To try and filter out those who received a letter is clearly clinically vulnerable from the age groups would mean someone happened to manually go through 1000s of letters in each cohort, and filter those individuals out. This could actually lead to errors and people being incorrectly removed from the age lists. Therefore, the best and most efficient approach is to send the age cohort letters as they are, disclose me, and those who identified as clinically vulnerable will receive two letters when their age group is reached. But they let us do clearly state that if you have already been invited, registered and vaccinated to ignore the latter, but this is the most efficient way of running that process and the best way of avoiding errors. Thank you, Chief Minister.

Howard Quayle 11:16
Thank you very much, David. And again, we thank all the teams involved in dealing with and treating this latest outbreak. Now I know what this outbreak continues, many have questions about the direction notices issued to the Isle of Man steam packet company. As I’ve said in previous briefings, I have requested that the chief secretary commission an independent review into the circumstances under which direction gnosis regarding self isolation, and other requirements have been issued to the steam packet. I’m pleased to advise that the terms of reference for this independent review have been finalised and have today been published. And they’re available on Gov.IM. Stephen Hein, the director of audit advisory and the Treasury has been appointed to conduct the review. The review will be undertaken completely independently of the Cabinet Office and will be afforded full access to all records held by and personnel employed by the Alamin government and all its agencies. before handing over to the media, I do want to address the question that I know is on everyone’s mind, how long this circuit this current circuit break will last? It is a tough question to answer at this stage. And I’ve said before that it felt unlikely that we would be on that we will be able to exit after 21 days. Despite the uncertainty around so much of this, we do want to give you as much clarity as we possibly can. The Council of Ministers looked at the data this morning and heard from our contact tracing public health colleagues and other senior officers. We agreed that despite a cautiously optimistic outlook, we would not be able to safely end the circuit break as planned on the 23rd of March. We have therefore decided to extend the lockdown for a week to allow us hopefully to see the data we need to make that decision. So this means that as things stand, the lockdown will continue until at least the first minute of Wednesday, the 31st of March. I know this is not what you want to hear. But we judged that it is the right thing to do to protect our islands critical services, not least our hospital and the vaccination programme. We will of course continue to review the situation. It may be that between now and then we are able to slightly change the measures, for example, to allow outdoor activities as we did after our first lockdown. But equally if we continue to see unexplained cases, then we cannot rule out needing to extend the lockdown further. This is the last thing the Council of Ministers wants. We only want measures for is in place for as long as they are necessary, not a day longer. Let’s go to questions from the media. And first I have today is Sam Turton from Jeff. Good afternoon, Sam faster. My

Sam Turton 14:06
estimate Chief Minister, I wanted to finish so we can go to Dr. Allinson, please. Just in terms of what will be happening for schools over this period of the extension, what plans he has for students who are facing exams in the summer, or variation of exams for their grades? Thank you very

Alex Allinson 14:25
much, Chief Minister. Um, I think that’s a very good question. We were hoping as everyone else wants to reopen scores at the end of the 21 day lock to lock down period is quite evident now that schools will not be opening until after the Easter holidays. Unfortunately, we are working very hard with teachers to keep up with the remote learning provision. We’ve already signalled that there will not be any physically sat exams this summer for either GCSE or a level students. What we’re doing at the moment is figuring out the best way of assessing those grades until Not all students get the grades that they deserve. And we should be able to announce that in the near future for any students or parents who are concerned with this, the department have got a special website set up@signposts.sc h.bi m, where we have frequently asked questions, and which we will update regularly to make sure that everyone knows exactly how those grades will be assessed when we get back to a sense of normality on later on next month.

Sam Turton 15:27
And will that include home school, so

Alex Allinson 15:29
that opening before Easter, will that stay the same then we’re currently working on the home schools and I’m sorry, for his parents who have been inconvenienced and stressed by the lack of childcare. When you look at the figures, we still have predominantly children of school age being affected by this virus. We’ve also seen the zero to four year olds and five, five to nine year olds also being affected for more than we’ve ever done. We’re working with the Department for health and social care, to try to devise testing programmes so that we can reopen schools to those children of critical workers and vulnerable children. But we need to make sure that service is as safe as possible before we open it. Because I do not want any children’s coming to a school environment and either put themselves at risk or put the staff there at risk.

Sam Turton 16:18
Thank you. And secondly, for administration, please, we’ve had it pointed out was on the COVID vaccination dashboard. There’s about three and a half 1000 vaccinations booked into next week, we still aiming to hit the target of 1000 a day, which we have to congratulate the team on doing last week they do a really good job there. Well, we say that over the next week, and if so how, in terms of the people num really 111? Is this slowing down the people booking vaccines at all?

David Ashford 16:44
No, the registrations are not slowing down. 111 continuously is booking people in. So your that has to be taken that figure that’s on the dashboard. We provide that because we have the information to hand. But it’s a snapshot figure. So it will change as 111 continues booking people in so the numbers increase per week. So for instance, I think if we could go back to a snapshot of the dashboard started last week, it wasn’t showing 5015 I think from memory it was showing just under the 4000. But over the week as time moves on pm for more people are booked in more slots have failed and people can afford vaccination. But no, we haven’t seen a slowdown and people coming forward. I’ve been very encouraged by the uptake actually on the vaccination programme, Sam, it’s, it’s actually been a really, really good, and we’ve seen an uptick in people registering over the last few weeks as well as we’ve released all the cohorts.

Howard Quayle 17:35
Thanks very much, Sam. Now we move on to Paul Moulton from alleman. Television. Good afternoon, Paul, faster. My

Paul Moulton 17:42
Thank you. And I know David, I’ve been talking to you for getting back 40 questions in just about two hours ago. So I have something more Just to follow on from Sam, there was a maximum amount of vaccinations can you do in a week I see a contour the dashboard. I’m doing this right, there’s over 17,000 vaccines ready to rumble at the moment?

David Ashford 18:02
Well, again, we have to be cautious around that figure. Again, the stock in the telde actually is a snapshot in time. So that snapshot was taken after the large delivery was received into the Ireland, we also have to take into account that includes all the people who were already booked to have the vaccination this week, or for those that wanted a vaccination further out. And it also takes into account those that need second doses delivering this week, or next week as well. In terms of the stock we hold, we hold a buffer to ensure that if there’s any weather disruption, or in fact any delivery disruption, because the delivery schedules are not guaranteed, and they can be bumpy on occasions, we have a buffer normally of between 567 days worth of vaccine. So what that means is we know we’ve got the vaccine, so we don’t have to keep stopping and starting, if we used everything that we had, say tomorrow, we didn’t stop because we wouldn’t have any more vaccine to deliver. So we always keep a buffer to make sure we can keep the programme continuously rolling. But that buffer now is down to five, six days. And I know on some projections at some points we will down to be down to a buffer of only three days worth of vaccine.

Paul Moulton 19:12
So the maximum you can do today.

David Ashford 19:14
So the maximum we can do in a day, again based on delivery schedules because we could go higher if we got higher amounts of deliveries is that just over 1000 a day.

Paul Moulton 19:23
So if you got more deliveries, you could go up to what I mean I’m trying to find out what the maximum potential is

David Ashford 19:27
where we could we could staff up accordingly we would still need to keep a buffer to ensure we could honour appointments that were already booked. But but we could throw more resources at it quite easily. And we could bring in those who are qualified who are volunteers as well. So there is not a maximum as such, our maximum is basically the ability to get the vaccine into the island and have these delivery schedules.

Paul Moulton 19:50
Okay appreciate this question comes up from time to time But as you know, things move on and Mhk actually put it up

David Ashford 19:56
as well earlier.

Paul Moulton 19:57
Is it time we follow the JC v And move from 10 to 12 weeks for the single dose. So a great number of people could have that vaccine. And you have said you will go keep looking at this when you

David Ashford 20:10
Yeah, at the moment, we are going for the 10 weeks that may well change in relation to supply. So for instance, if there’s pressures of supply further on, we have that buffer, because we know we can deliver it up to 12 weeks the second dose, and in order to keep the programme rolling, we will bring in the 12 weeks if necessary. But at the moment, we’re keeping it at 10 weeks, but we can if the delivery schedules are disrupted, move to 12.

Howard Quayle 20:36
Okay, thank you very much, Paul. Now we move on to Helen McKenna from all of my newspapers. Good afternoon, Helen foster my

David Ashford 20:43
capacity and Chief Minister, I first questions for the health minister. So on the dashboard at the moment, we’ve got how many people are in hospital. But is there any way that going forward, you can clarify how many people were admitted to nobles for for COVID. And how many were tested for COVID on arrival, so such as if they were being treated for something else, as some have been seen on social media that the figures can be misleading? Well, the people, the people we list in hospital are COVID positive, we don’t drill down too much into the detail because if we start doing that we stop potentially identifying patients, we start giving too much personal information, all patients are tested on arrival. If they then test COVID positive, then obviously they are dealt with as a COVID positive patient, but we can’t break it down to that sort of granular detail. Because we could be coming up with numbers like one, two, and that would then risk of being in the realms of what is classed as patient identifiable information. Okay, thank you. My second question is either for yourself, Mr. Ashford or Dr. Yours? How many people? Sorry, how many of the known active cases are asymptomatic? I don’t actually have that. But I’ll pass over to Director of Public Health. She may well,

Henrietta Ewart 22:04
I believe I do. But I will have to get it up on my computer. So

Howard Quayle 22:11
yeah, I think I thought this afternoon hell on myself. It’s a split of about 700 to 200 sort of ratio, but sorry. So

David Ashford 22:18
no, I have I have got achievement found us in terms of symptoms symptomatic is 594, asymptomatic 253. Thank you.

Howard Quayle 22:29
Okay. Thanks very much, Alan. Now we move on to Rob precharged. from three FM Good afternoon, Rob customer.

Unknown Speaker 22:36
That’s my chief minister, my first question probably to the health minister, there’s no more thought being given to the idea of introducing some phone support bubbles for those living on their own during this lockdown.

David Ashford 22:45
not currently Rob. That was the whole purpose of the cons three weeks circuit breaker and the chief message just nowadays. Now it’s two weeks extension two is to actually buy a break transmission chains. And the main driver of transmission chains, as we’ve just heard from the Director of Public Health, is household mixing. So the whole purpose of this has been to limit household mixing, we do realise that there is pressures for a lot of people, particularly those who are on their own. And so we’re feeling very isolated. And as I’ve said, In reply to many people who’ve contacted me, if we did need to do a extension to it, so a substantial extension to the circuit breaker, like the sort of situation we got into last year, then that would be one of many possible decisions. You may remember of that last year, we released gradually, where we allowed people to mix to a certain extent. So initially, it was so many people in your garden, then there was a limit on the number of people you could have indoors. If it’s an extended circuit breaker, then that may be something that we consider again. But at the moment, the purpose of the circuit breaker is to actually prevent transmission chains being created. And that is mainly driven by household mixing. So that’s why the rules prevent household mixing at this time.

Howard Quayle 23:59
Yeah, it’s I mean, I don’t want anyone to think that the Council of Ministers is isn’t aware and understanding of people living on their own, who are isolated and lonely as a result of the rules that we brought in. And if we feel that we can going forward, bring in one household mixing with another household, then that’s something of course we’ll do but at this moment in time, our clear advice is that the biggest way this terrible virus is spreading is by household mixing. And therefore we’ve got to hold this line for the time being but as I say, I just want to reassure everyone out there, the minute we can release this or try and help out those people who are on their own that needs support, then of course we will do obviously if you’re vulnerable living on your own and you can’t manage to feed yourself or look after yourself, then of course, people are allowed to go into give you support but for those people who are able to look after themselves, but are feeling lonely and vulnerable. We do understand that but we sadly just cannot release that restriction at At this moment in time, but we will do our utmost to help you in the future going forward. Thank you Rob, your next question.

Rob Pritchard (3FM) 25:07
Thank you. Secondly, this is probably for Dr. Ewart. Many of the cases that we’re seeing recently have involved transmission within households, obviously, with many cell by site eating. What are the chances of someone getting reinfected in isolation if, for example, they are members of their household are shedding the virus at different times, maybe only a couple of days between?

Henrietta Ewart 25:29
Are you asking? Is it possible for someone who’s already had the infection in that house to get it again, as it moves sequentially to other members?

Unknown Speaker 25:39
Yeah, that’s right.

Henrietta Ewart 25:41
Not if the person is within three months of their first infection. So if, for example, I was the index case, in my hand sold, so I’ve tested positive, but I’ve got four other people in my household and overtime, two, or three, or maybe all four of them test positive. Each of us as we test positive can complete our 14 days, subject to a negative test at day 13. And then we can be released, it’s only the ones who are either currently infected, or have not yet been infected, who have to complete self isolation, or continue self isolation. And once somebody has been a confirmed positive, there is general consensus, and this is supported by the European Centre for disease control is protocols, we tend to follow that you can regard someone who has been a confirmed positive as having protection from natural immunity for at least 90 days after that infection. So that that’s the approach we follow. I have had people say to me, oh, but if somebody has completed their self isolation, and is then allowed back out into the community, but have people in their household and was still infected and infectious, isn’t there a risk that they could carry virus out on their clothes or their hands and infect people that way? Now, the answer there is firstly, that there is a theoretical risk of that transmission through clothes has really not ever been demonstrated and virus survival on fabric is not very long and it certainly hasn’t been shown to do it in a way that is transmissible to other people, hands, obviously, we should all be continuing to wash our hands, sanitise our hands, avoid touching other surfaces and certainly avoid touching other people. So the risk from that we can’t say it’s zero, but it is very low, and it’s mitigate double. So we do allow people who have completed their self isolation for their own infection, and have tested negative to go back out about their normal business. Thank you.

Howard Quayle 27:47
Thanks very much, Rob. And last but not least, we have Tim Glover from Manx radio. Good afternoon, Tim faster, my

Unknown Speaker 27:55
faster my you’ve announced that the director of audit advisory in the Treasury is going to conduct an independent investigation or treasury of the shareholder and oma steam packet. And I’m already getting emails saying that can’t be classed as independent.

Howard Quayle 28:11
Well, it’s it’s the Cabinet Office, Tim where public health reside, and they issued the cloud the the the notices, now independent audit is totally independent, but it has to live somewhere. And it’s based through the yesterday the Treasury but it is a totally independent organisation used to doing investigative reports. And, you know, I’m more than happy that a thorough report will will be done and into this, you know, this review, and obviously, the review will be published.

Unknown Speaker 28:45
And people working in pharmacies and sold, getting their key worker status removed is the review of what is the key worker status underway at the moment to your knowledge, and the question being asked is how can working parents carry on working with when hope schools and nurseries reopen if their key worker status is removed?

Howard Quayle 29:06
I’m not aware of pharmacists are having their key worker status removed, but I’ll hand over to David for that.

David Ashford 29:12
Yes, certainly, Chief Minister, no, pharmacists have not had their key worker status removed. They are still key workers. I assume what the questions relating to Tim is who has access to the education hopes, that doesn’t mean they’re no longer a key worker. We apply all sorts of categories to key workers. It’s just which key workers can enter the educational hubs. At the moment, there is still work ongoing, and I’ll hand over to Minister for Education in a moment to update on that, but there is still work ongoing in relation to that. And as it’s just been announced today, the hubs will not be back up and running, unfortunately, before we start with the way that transmission commonly as a young young people, but the Minister for Education might be able to elaborate further.

Alex Allinson 29:53
Thank you, Minister on it’s very good question and I’ve been approached by several pharmacists of the new one You know, working parents, and we know that pharmacy provision is quite essential for health and social care, we will be working with all preschool preschool providers to try to extend the service as much as we can. But again, we’re dealing with at the moment, an outbreak that is predominantly affects the children of school age. And so we need to make sure that when we have a system in place, we gradually expand it. So we start off with the critical workers, and then gradually expand that provision as we move forward and move out of this current outbreak. But certainly the public education, school and culture are in regular conversation with the problem of health and social care to make sure that those essential frontline services are supported during this very difficult period for this. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 30:46
Thank you.

Howard Quayle 30:46
Thank you very much, Tim. And thank you very much for those questions. And thank you to everyone who has done the right thing for their island and their community over the last two weeks already. I remain confident that together, we can get through this. I have faith in the great Manx public. Let’s keep focusing on the basics. And we can put the circuit break behind us. Please stay at home as much as possible. This is the biggest single thing that you can do right now. Do not go into work unless you absolutely have to. And please, if you show any symptoms at all, do not brush it off, stay at home and call 111 continue to make the right decisions for you, your family and our island. Thank you all very much