This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government’s Coronavirus Media Briefing held on Monday 8 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 0:01
Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for joining us today, here with me at the podium as the Minister for health and social care. And on zoom, we have the Minister of Education, sports and culture, 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. David,
David Ashford 0:20
thank you, Chief Minister, the total number of tests undertaken stands are 36,419. The total test concluded is 36,418. With one result awaited, then total new cases identified is 56, making the total number of cases 811. Active cases are 369. And eight of those active cases are within the hospital. I do need to stress that the figures are a snapshot as always. And as as testing results continue to come back in and tests are received into the lab, that figure may increase as the day goes on. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 0:59
Thank you very much, David. Now I know many people will see these numbers and be alarmed. Yes, they are higher than we might have seen at any moment in this pandemic. But it is important that we keep this in the same context. We are testing large numbers of people at the moment, around 800. This weekend, we are seeing about 14% of people testing, returning a positive result. And this number has been stubbornly steady over recent days, as our Director of Public Health has said, the fact that we entered lockdown almost a week or so ago, gives us some hope that the numbers we are seeing might soon hit a peak. But let me ask her to come to this point. And to tell us herself what she believes the numbers are telling us, Dr. Ewart.
Henrietta Ewart 1:46
Thank you, Chief Minister. Yes, the number of active cases that we have at the moment is 369. And of those 135 are in children and young people aged up to 19. So that’s 36% of the cases are in those young age groups. Now, what we’re seeing coming through as positive tests now still reflects people who were infected out in the community before the circuit breaker came in. And given the incubation period, we will expect to see those cases keep coming through until about the middle of this week. And then those cases should drop down. The cases that we will still considered continue to see after that will be largely related or should be largely related to household transmission. And although we always advise that where possible, if you have a case in your household, the case should self isolate, as far as possible, away from everybody else in the house and not have any contact with them. We do appreciate that that is not always possible. And particularly in this case where we had such a large number of children and young people, it’s very difficult. And we understand that for those children and young people to spend two weeks totally cut off from the rest of their family. So for those reasons, we will expect to see a continued run off of household cases following on from those initial cases. So in line with that, we should also expect to see a shift in the age groups as the children and young people get better and stop being active cases. But they’re older household members and also maybe their siblings, so some of the younger ones as well. But the older household members will start to show up more in the figures. Okay, thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 3:41
Thank you very much doctor, you know, as Dr. Ewart has said on a number of occasions Now, the key to us turning the corner off his latest outbreak will be breaking the chains of onward transmission. And as I’ve said, the most important contribution the great max public can make to achieve this is to stay at home. I really cannot overstate the importance of this. The basic facts are simple. This is a virus that moves fast from person to person. Any mixing between people increases the risk of transmission. If you do not mix with others, this will help break the chains and isolate the virus for our community. Every single one of us needs to do what we can to protect our most vulnerable our vaccination programme and our critical services. And the 111 and contact tracing team are working under massive pressure. And I do need to ask people to be patient and considerate to the team. When it comes to our health service. The case numbers we are seeing are of course a cause of real concern. concern because of the pressure that we are facing in our hospital. We are already seeing a number of people affected by the virus requiring hospital attention. I will ask the minister to take us through some of the actions that the department has had to take to ensure that we Already for what might come next. As things stand, the hospital is coping service has had to be adapted and some stopped. But if the pressure increases too much, there is a real risk that the hospital will not be able to cope. And right now given that we are entering a phase of real increase in vaccination supplies, we cannot allow anything to destabilise that. David, would you like to pick up on this, please?
David Ashford 5:26
Yes, thank you, Chief Minister in relation to health services, just as we did last year, we have had to pause some of the elective surgery around the hospital. We are also moving clinics online where possible to try and keep the clinics going. But we have had to minimise face to face appointments as we try and move members of staff more into the COVID response. We have also brought online Ward 19, also known as the private patients unit, to ensure that we have the side rooms there for people who need to be isolated with COVID-19. So though people will see that there will be certain services that for the time being will be suspended. were reviewing the position every week, and we hope to have those services reinstated, as soon as it is practical and safe for us to do so. Turning to the vaccination programme, as the chief minister has said, This week, the vaccination programme ramps up with increased supplies of vaccine being received. Letters will shortly be going out to the next two priority groups, which are those who are clinically vulnerable, and those who are aged over 60. supply is still our major variant when it comes to the vaccination programme. And delivery schedules are not even and are not guaranteed. I know there have been some comments around the amount of vaccine shown in stock. So I want to address this head on today. It’s not the case that we are holding large quantities of vaccine, the stock figures shown on the dashboard of a point in time, and that figure held includes all vaccines that have been booked with moving the dosing schedule for the second dose to 10 weeks, we now only hold a buffer of between five to 10 days, which being an island it’s crucial we hold as otherwise, should the delivery schedule be disrupted, our vaccine programme would be halted. And given example of this, that this, the delivery of vaccine we were expecting late last week did not arrive as the UK did not receive the expected supply from the manufacturers. If we did not hold the buffer in the way we do, we would now be in the process of having to cancel everyone booked him for vaccine this week, which would have meant 1000s of people having to be contacted cancelled, and rebooked and us having to pause the rollout. So the bofur people say in the stock figure is purely for appointments that are already booked or in the process of being confirmed. And vaccinations do to be administered in the immediate days to come to ensure as best we can, that if there is supply disruption, we do not have to reschedule appointments already booked. I know there has also been questions around people isolating in the vaccine. If people have been instructed to isolate and are under a direction notice they can’t come out of isolation to have a vaccine. They must be vaccinated after the isolation period has ended. If it is not mandatory isolation, but the person has voluntarily isolated by their own decision or the shielding, then they can attend their appointment as normal. Also in relation to the vaccine, we have a number of people trying to request a particular vaccine. Unless there is a medical reason why you need a specific type. People can’t request a particular vaccine. I would urge people to accept the next slot made available to them and should not be trying to delay their appointments to try and get a particular type of vaccine. If you are in the vulnerable groups, which are those we are vaccinating commonly, it is important that you have the vaccine at the earliest opportunity available to you. Both vaccines are effective. And unless there is a specific clinical reason, there is no reason for someone not to have the vaccine that is offered. Also the online form for registration for a vaccine is now active. It is only for those who have received a letter calling them forward for a vaccine. We have seen a large number of people today trying to register who were not yet in the groups to be called. So to be clear, you will not be allocated a vaccine appointment unless you are in the priority groups that have been called at that time. So please only register once you’ve received your letter of invitation, as otherwise you are increasing the workload on 111 who is having to filter through those who have registered online on a different topic. Sadly, there has also now been several instances of health and social care staff being abused in Public health and social care staff have worked tirelessly for the last 12 months under horrendous pressure to keep us on our island as safe as can be. Can I please urge that we all show respect and understanding for the work that they do tirelessly day in and day out to keep our Island’s health and care system safe, and the systems running that we all rely on?
David Ashford 10:25
Last year, we applauded our health and social care staff for the work they were doing. It is work they have not stopped doing. They do it day in and day out, quietly getting on with the job, I would appeal that we show that same community kindness, again and recognise the hard work commitment, and dedication and service that all our health and social care workers provide to us as a community. Thank you, Chief Minister,
Howard Quayle 10:53
thank you there and really disappointing to hear about the lack of respect given to our health care workers. I’m sure it’s only a small percentage of the population. But please, Will people act responsibly, we’ve got hard, stressed pressed staff who deserve the utmost respect for the hard work that they’re doing. Now, you will have seen last week we had to suspend all provisions in our schools even for key workers. This was not an easy decision, but it was based on the data that we were seeing about the infections of our young people. Unfortunately, with the strain of the virus that we are currently dealing with, our younger population can act as a bridge for the transmission of COVID from one household to another. We do however, know that we need to ensure that those who are critical to keeping our islands safe and moving are able to have their children looked after safely. We are working to develop a plan for this. And I would like to invite the Minister of Education, sport and culture to give us an update. Alex.
Alex Allinson 11:55
Thank you, Chief Minister. Last Thursday, we made a difficult but decisive decision to close all schools and childcare facilities on the island. Since then, the Department for Education, sport and culture has been working with other parts of government, the private sector, and others to establish provision for some of the children of our critical frontline staff who we rely on. We all now know that we are still not the peak of this outbreak yet. Over the weekend, we’ve seen the number of cases recovering to increase significantly. It was my intention to open a hub provision school tomorrow. The infection control team today visited a school selected to carry out a detailed risk assessment. The public health departments were also involved in drawing up clear protocols, including testing provision, which will be shared with teachers and their representatives. This morning casting ministers discussed this plan and the complexities it involves, it is essential that we can open the hub safely and have resilient systems in place to ensure its continued operational. As we approach the infection peak, major concerns were expressed about gathering children from multiple households together in the same place when we understand that household transmission is the main cause of the spread of COVID-19 through our community. For that reason, we have decided not to open that up tomorrow was previously planned and work together to ensure we have a robust system in place in the near future. I understand how difficult the current situation is for many, and I’m working around the clock to to establish care provision for those children who do to their patients. Their parents critical work commitments cannot be at home. We will make a further update later this week. But in the meantime, we have to ask all parents to keep their children at home. Whilst this is going on schools will be providing regular contacts with vulnerable children. If families have any difficulties, they should contact their school in the first instance, you can help advise resolve resolve these or obtain extra help from one of our educational psychologists. All our teachers remain dedicated to teaching and the remote learning services they provide will continue even though our schools remain closed. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 14:19
Thank you very much, Alex. And as you say the Council of Ministers will keep a careful eye on this and review this regularly. Just before we go to questions I would like to date to update you on our longer term approach to exiting the wider situation. When will we be ready to pivot from an approach of local elimination to one of living with the virus. I will be briefing Tim old on this tomorrow and we will be publishing it on our website. Once I have done this. I hope people will read the document with interest and may not have everything that everyone needs. And of course it could be subject to change, but it will show you our direction of travel. Let’s go to questions from the media now. And first We have is Helen McKenna from Isle of Man newspapers. Good afternoon, Helen faster. My
Helen McKenna 15:05
Good afternoon ministers. My first question is for the health minister, please. You mentioned that nobles hospital is a sorry, I think it was actually the chief minister that mentioned that the hospitals coping well so far, but how many ICU beds are currently taken up?
David Ashford 15:23
So in terms of ICU provision, Helen, I believe in total, there’s about six beds occupied, I believe, at the current time. One of those patients is COVID. related. We do have the capacity Remember to expand ICU if needs be, we can go to what we did in the outbreak last year where we can actually go up to 18 beds in ICU. We did expand I think last year to 16. But we can go to 18 if necessary.
Helen McKenna 15:50
Okay, so is there a danger of there not being enough beds? No, we
David Ashford 15:54
can’t adapt. At this time there isn’t that pressure on ICU because we can’t expand us? We haven’t expanded our eyes yet. We have remained with our existing and day to day ICU provision and we’ve coped within that. But if we need to, we can actually double the ICU provision.
Helen McKenna 16:11
Thank you. My second question regards the vaccinations for police officers. The Chief Constable wants to get vaccines sooner for the police force, what has the official government response been to him?
David Ashford 16:24
So in relation to that one I addressed at the press conference, the press conferences last week, the vaccine does not help with resilience for the police force, it does not help with resilience for any other role either. The reason being the vaccine does not stop some non contracting COVID-19. And although the scientific evidence is very popular and positive around reducing transmission, it doesn’t remove transmission. So that means that if a police officer contracted COVID-19, through their duties, which they can still do, even if vaccinated, they would still have to isolate what will actually be of more benefit to the police’s, if they come under pressures, we would need to look at testing pathways and things like that to be able to get people back to work safely. But vaccination does not help in that regard. So the vaccine programme remains as it has from day one, based not around the likelihood of someone contracting COVID-19. But the risk of someone becoming seriously ill or potentially dying, should they contract it. And it is absolutely essential. We focus on those vulnerable groups. And that’s why we do it by category of vulnerability and also profile of age. Okay,
Howard Quayle 17:29
thanks very much, Ellen. Obviously, it’s something we keep. We consider him very serious. Another council of ministers will be meeting soon to discuss measures that the Health Minister has just outlined to see what we can do with the testing regime should a serious situation develop in any of our emergency services or key worker areas. Next, we have Leslie Hancock from three FM Good afternoon, Leanne faster. My
Simon Richardson 17:52
Good afternoon. My
Leanne Cook 17:53
first question is for the health minister. I’ve asked this previously, but not for a few weeks. So I’m just looking for an update. So far during the island’s vaccination programme, has anyone opted not to get vaccinated? And if so, do you have a figure of how many
David Ashford 18:08
we don’t, because people don’t opt out and such they might receive an invite letter, but then never respond to the invite. So we’re not aware at any one time, if it’s people opting out or simply the fact they’re going to respond at a later date. So we don’t have that figured, because it’s not a pure opt in or opt out. It’s we write to all the cohorts, and then they register, once someone has received a letter, they’re not time limited. So for instance, someone in the over 80s category who hasn’t yet taken up the offer could do so tomorrow, because they’ve already been issued with the letter. So it’s not really a finger we actually hold in that regard.
Leanne Cook 18:46
Okay, And my second question, given the high number of COVID cases that we’re seeing at the moment, do you anticipate that this lockdown will be eased more gradually than we’ve seen previously?
Howard Quayle 19:00
Right, well, that’s the million dollar question. Leanna suppose and we go on data. I think the prime minister said data, not dates, which was a very good phrase. We don’t know what’s happening at this moment in time with the exact numbers where it’s going to be going in the next few days, I have to say, but once we have a stare on the number of cases and when we start to see the reduction in cases then we can start to plan things. Obviously we have ideas in place. We’ve been through the two lockdowns before now and we will react to the situation as it on on folds really, but so no exact dates, but obviously we you learn all the time, what works and what doesn’t work, but thank you.
Unknown Speaker 19:40
Oh, sorry. No, it’s okay.
Unknown Speaker 19:42
Howard Quayle 19:43
Okay, thank you. Next we have is Tim Glover from Manx radio. Good afternoon, Tim faster. My
Josh Stokes 19:49
festival my Kelly just asked about numbers that are now in self isolation that it’s been described as over 1000 both on Saturday and Sunday. Can we have the exact number of people that are actually self isolating at the moment and the number of households that are involved in that. And if we can just just expand on what that self isolation process is, is it a negative test in your Okay, I’ll be there for 14 days with a series of testing are a mixture of the both. David, would
Howard Quayle 20:21
you like to
David Ashford 20:22
Yeah, I’ll bring the Director of Public Health in as well, if I may, Chief Minister in a moment. And the figure I have Tim for total number of people in self isolation. As I said, the figure I’ve given this afternoon is 2843. But of course, that also includes people who’ve been travelling. So there is different path path testing pathways in place, there are some people who are on a negative test and released depending upon their circumstances, there’s all the people that have to actually isolate for the 14 days, particularly if the high risk contacts. But in terms of number of households, I don’t have that figured at hand, but I’ll hand over to Director of Public Health who might.
Henrietta Ewart 21:02
Yes, we did start doing a breakdown of that my analyst colleagues did earlier today, I would have to run through my emails to try and see where we got to with that, which I can’t really do while we’re on air, but I can see what we can pull together and share afterwards. In terms of those contacts that the Health Minister has just shared. of the losing my fingers now, of the 2843, who are in self isolation 1417 of those are known direct contacts of cases. So the others will be either returning travellers or people who are in households with a high risk contact. And we are actually reviewing the pathways for those to see if we can mitigate some of that self isolation without changing the risk profile too much. So that’s something that we’ll be keeping under review, because, obviously, as the numbers go up, having such large numbers in self isolation becomes a problem in itself. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 22:15
Okay, Tim, your next question?
Josh Stokes 22:18
Yes, you’ve had one NHK call for people to consider positions which is political co for resigning and other NHK his appeal to you to avoid the bunker mentality and takeout psych health. Chief Constable Gary Roberts says pleased to reporting that the public feel a sense of despair and despondency this time around. He was surprised and I said there was also anger out there last week and there is these people want to do that. But of course, they want transparency, full facts, a different attitude from komen, some humility, even an apology. Can you oblige?
Howard Quayle 22:56
Well, an apology for what and we are doing our utmost here. Occasionally we will get things wrong. That’s that’s human nature. But we didn’t start quickly. And we weren’t the cause of this outbreak, it’s happened. There will always going to be the chances of outbreaks. We’ve said this from time to time, we’ve had to react to a fastly rapidly moving situation. If we’ve got it wrong, then I can only apologise but we have a highly dedicated team who are doing their absolute best regarding timbal members or backbenches, calling for resignations. Well, it’s there’s a general election in a few months time. So sadly, that’s the sort of thing I’ve come to expect. disappointing though with though it is. We’re not perfect. We’re not trying to make out that we’re perfect, but we are doing our best and a tough situation. But I still think if you look at the record over the last 12 months, it’s surprising that so many people are so as you’re making out Tim, despondent with a government when you consider our neighbours and the situation that that that they’ve been in. I don’t know, Dave, if you’d like to add to anything?
Josh Stokes 23:57
Yeah, it was the chief constable that used the phrase that the public are despondent this time around the sense of despair,
Howard Quayle 24:03
right. Well, from that point of view, I think that’s in context that we we’ve enjoyed nearly eight months of no lockdown, and to have to go back into it. Nobody wants to go back into it, and you’ve been through it twice. That’s twice too many. From everyone’s point of view. A third time is most regrettable, but so I can understand people despair from that point of view. But sadly, the the virus doesn’t let up. That’s what we’ve all learned. The whole world has learned that, you know that if you look at the United Kingdom, it’s been virtually locked down for most part of of the 12 month period. So it is most disappointing. I can understand people being fed up and having to go back into lockdown, but sadly, that’s the situation we find ourselves in. Sorry, David.
David Ashford 24:46
Yeah, I think it’s natural, Tim, that there will be a certain level of despondency. You know, for many people, I think I said this at the briefing last week. It will feel like Groundhog Day there 12 months on we’re back where we were initially so Though you know, as much as we always said the virus called comeback. There will be an awful lot of people, particularly who enjoyed the freedoms that other countries didn’t have at that time, who felt that was it, the Ireland had gone through it. In terms of transparency, we try to be as transparent and upfront as we can, myself and all the ministers, including the chief minister, do these press briefings, we go out, I come up to Manx radio very often to put myself forward for interview, along with other media channels as well. The simple fact is the facts are changing hour by hour, day by day, things are moving on, we try and get the information out there as quickly as possible. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t, because we put a press release out late at night. And we’re accused of why we put it out at 11pm. Equally, if we do it first thing in the morning, were accused, why are we doing it first thing in the morning. But I think it is natural for people to be worried I, I did a piece at the last press briefing for the children of the Ireland where I think you know, amongst young people, this is exceptionally frightening times. But what I would say is the same message I said then is for people, you know, don’t get too despondent, there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is the vaccine that’s now coming online. There is also an exit strategy that will be very shortly published, where people can see our approach. So we are not where we were 12 months ago, because at that point, we didn’t have a vaccine, we didn’t have that light at the end of the tunnel, to be honest, was just a dark tunnel. We have that now. And I think people should be focusing on that. And I would say to people, please don’t be despondent. In time. We will get there. We’ve got there before as a community, and we will do so again.
Howard Quayle 26:38
Thank you very much, Tim. Next week. I’m Alex Bell from BBC Isle of Man. Good afternoon, Alex faster. My
Alex Bell 26:43
Hello, good afternoon. And I’ve heard from a number of people over the weekend who were advised that they would need a test by 111 several days ago, and up to this point, have still not received a test date. Is the Testing Service overwhelmed?
Howard Quayle 27:01
Right? Well, I’m not aware of several days waiting. I don’t know if David or doctor, if you’ve got any, any knowledge of that yourself. And just
David Ashford 27:10
before I bring the Director of Public Health in case she does have any further knowledge than I have, Alex, I know there’s been a couple of days wait for some people. It’s not the testing system as such 111, I know has been inundated and trying to keep up with getting the bookings in, we do ask people to bear with with us and that I have been made personally aware of a couple of cases that have been waiting a fair period. And we are looking into that as to why that is. But generally, most people now who have been required to test or either have been tested or in the process of doing, we do have to accept that the demands, particularly on the 111 system have been unprecedented. And I think again, as I’ve referred to previously, it was a bit of a perfect storm, the next set of vaccine letters going out at the same time as we had a school school clusters, where 111 that had to get in touch with all of the families, and then arranged testing. So it has been a bit of a perfect storm that has been seen in other jurisdictions as well. Jersey had a similar situation when they had their escalated outbreak. But I would urge people we will get through to them, we will get through them. And like I say there is a couple of days wait on some cases where I’ll bring Henrietta in the Director of Public Health in case she’s got anything she wishes to add?
Henrietta Ewart 28:21
Thank you, Minister, not a lot really other than to say that yes, we’ve also heard these reports of people being booked for tests to three days. Hence, we are not sure why that’s happening. Because our understanding is that the capacity should allow the flow to go through smoothly. So I know the team is reviewing it to make sure if there are any inadvertent blocks that those are sorted. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 28:45
But if you have any contact details Alex on they’re more than happy to get them to be shared with the team then please pass it on. And we’ll we’ll have it looked into.
Alex Bell 28:53
Thank you. Just a second question for the Education Minister. Dr. Johnson, you must appreciate that there are children of workers to may well be considered key workers for the last week so their children could attend homeschools. But for obvious reasons they can’t attend school this week that is putting families under pressure. Can you give any kind of reassurance as to when more children not all children, but more children of those key workers will be allowed to go back to school?
Alex Allinson 29:23
Yes, thank you for that question. I completely understands that their concerns. I’ve been contacted by a number of people who work in social care who work in nursing homes who’ve been put in a very difficult position of trying to balance wanted to go into work to do their bit for our community, with also having to stay behind and look after their children. For essential workers, other family members may provide childcare, and obviously children of separated households are able to travel between parents homes for the provision of childcare. But some people haven’t got that ability because perhaps elderly residents are shielding themselves. They don’t want to expose them to their children. We are working around the clock to try to get our provision set up. But But as I said that our approach really is is to get it right not rushed. And at the time where we’re still expecting to hit the peak of this particular outbreak that we’re dealing with, the council ministers decided this morning, that tomorrow was too soon to start establishing a hub. And I’m very sorry about that, because that was something I’ve obviously announced over the weekend I was planning for, but I think while we’ve got this developing situation, we need to hold fast keep children at home, but I will be updating towards the end of the week and we will do our utmost to preserve provide service to hard working Manx families.
Howard Quayle 30:40
Thanks very much, Alex. Now we move on to Seibert Richardson from business 365. Good afternoon. Savin customi.
Simon Richardson 30:47
Good afternoon, gentlemen, that the number of people being treated for COVID in hospital is, as you said earlier, rising currently standing at eight. also given that young people could start infecting all the family members in households, as suggested in this briefing by Dr. yeard. This said, this must pose the threat of a major pinch point at the hospital in the days ahead, given that older people are under greater threat of serious illness.
Howard Quayle 31:15
David Ashford 31:17
yes, it called. I’ve got to be perfectly honest on that, because we are seeing household transmission, it is suggested that people should isolate away from other family members when it comes to children that may not be as practical as it sounds. And but we do ask people who are in households, particularly households with older people, that where possible, they don’t mix and they don’t turn, they may be self isolate away from the rest of the family. But no, it is certainly a pinch point. We’ve seen that in other jurisdictions where it started off in young age groups, and then it’s gone up through the age groups. The only thing that I can say at the moment is, we haven’t necessarily seen it in the same way as other jurisdictions. And we have to remember, as the Director of Public Health already touched on earlier, we are now towards the end of this week, getting to the point where the lockdown circuit break measures should actually be starting to show an effect, although we will go on to see still household transmission. But that should, I would hope, dampen the prospects and lower the potential number of cases. But most certainly it is and always has been a risk. And I’ve been the director of public health and in case she’s got anything she wishes to add.
Henrietta Ewart 32:22
And you minister Yes, I mean, it is a risk Exactly. As you say. The good news so far is that to date, we do not have anybody aged 80 or over who is a case yet. And very few very low numbers in the 60s and over. Certainly in various areas across the UK where this has been a real problem has been in areas with very high levels of multi generational households, we don’t have such a picture of that if you like as they have in some areas across here. So it is unlikely to be a big issue. But that’s not to say that there are not households that have multi generations in them. And we would urge them to be Be very careful about protecting the older members by keeping them as far away as possible from any younger member who is self isolating. We also have to remember that although the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation, and so on is higher, the older you get, young age does not guarantee that you will not be affected. And of course, the cases we’re currently seeing are in fact, in the younger age groups, younger adult age groups. So, you know, we have to wait and see how it will unfold. Thank you.
Simon Richardson 33:45
Thank you. My second question is for the Education Minister, Dr. rollinson, when the lockdown eventually ends, do you think that measures will have to be continued in schools such as masks and distancing given that young people seem to be so affected by the current Kent strain, obviously, last time around the schools reopened as normal.
Alex Allinson 34:07
That I think is actually an extremely good point. And obviously, I think all of our eyes are on the United Kingdom today as they reopen schools. They are using lateral flow tests as a screening procedure and aim to try to do that twice a week. But also they’re adopting things like a degree of social distance, and a degree of more squaring. I think what we’re dealing with now in terms of the Kent theory, and has produced some some odd cases and some odd ways that it’s increased in terms of prevalence in various parts of the community. We’ve seen that in other jurisdictions, but but I must admit, when you look at the number of cases in in school aged children on the Isle of Man, it really is quite high and higher than we’d expect on the previous modelling of the chem variant. And we don’t we’re not quite sure why that is. And whether it’s just because of household spread or whether there’s Something else going on there in terms of children mixing, perhaps more on the islands, and then we’re doing the United Kingdom. I mean, answered your question. When we do exit this lockdown, I hope and the government policy is still to eradicate forest land. And so to get back to normal, but I think all of us now that we’re living through a third lockdown have got that that sense of of more awareness in terms of hygiene, and it may well be that as we roll out the vaccination programme, hopefully to get to offer it to younger people as well. If the trial data allows that and relicensing that we have to, as we open up schools have some degree of testing, or have some other measures in place to make sure that we can keep them open. And obviously, the announcement stated that unfortunately, we’re cancelling summer exams, by supervisors some time to make sure the children’s education is up to date, and that they get the grades that they need them progress on, whether it’s to sixth form or whether it’s to further education, or vocational training or work. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 35:59
Thanks very much. So now we move on to some terton. from Jeff, good afternoon, Sam Foster, my
Sam Turton 36:04
festival Chief Minister, the vaccine online booking system has been launched today. We’ve had people look at it and they said it’s essentially just a basic webform that capture details. We’re following NHS England’s process in full digital solutions. I really can’t see given all the tech companies that we have on the on that on the expertise. While we can’t go further and have this full system. Yeah, I have a comment on that was
Howard Quayle 36:31
David Ashford 36:32
Yes, I can’t sum it in relation to the bookings, we can only book so far in advance because we need to have certainty around the vaccine supplies. I already mentioned there about a delivery that we were expecting late last week, which we didn’t get. And if we start looking too far in advance, then what will happen is we will have people booked in and if those delivery schedules change in an adverse way, we will have to cancel and then reboot, which creates even more work for the team. So once we know for certain what the delivery schedules are, and we know a average of what we’re getting with this ramp up, then we can look and we are looking at a potential for digital booking system to sit behind the form. But at the moment, the most efficient way still, for the one on one to do it is to get people to register online. So they’ve got a list of registrants. And then as we know, from the suppliers of vaccine we are getting how many appointments we can do each week, then we move people in, and people get either an email, a letter, or a phone call to actually give them the time and date to their appointments. Because what we don’t want to do is to be booking a load of people in and then finding those slots for whatever reason, can’t go ahead because we don’t have the vaccine, or in fact, we get more supplies than we expected. And because we want to prioritise by priority group, then having to move people forward. That creates just as much work behind the scenes.
Sam Turton 37:49
But just another if we have at the minute where we’re saying there’s going to be 1000 a day, five days a week, how many weeks we’re thinking we’re going to be able to keep that up for we’re not saying that say we could book from now it’s the end of the March on first doses?
David Ashford 38:01
Well, at the moment, Sam, as I’ve said, in all my statements, it’s this week and next week, because they are the vaccines we know we’ve got. After that looking at the supplies coming into the island, we believe we can maintain that. There are D as I said, there are dips and dips and also highs where it goes higher than that. But it depends upon the supply. The only supply for certain we actually know about is this week, and next week, the rest will depend upon whether those delivery schedules are honoured. And sometimes the delivery schedules because it’s based on what comes into the UK can actually change multiple times a day. I believe on one occasion, the delivery schedule changed four times in one day.
Sam Turton 38:41
Thank you. And just secondly, I’ve spoken to people who work in factories on the island who are saying that, while they’re seen as key workers, so they have to go to work, there are 250 people working in an enclosed space. They’re just concerned about why they’re seen as essential workers, given the current circumstances and whether they indeed should still be working, even where they are taking precautions where possible.
Howard Quayle 39:06
Right. Well, that’s obviously a definition that we’ve worked with since day one. On the manufacturing side, the manufacturing companies are making products to an international world, Sam. And if those are not lost or not provided, then it could well be that jobs are lost that they simply go elsewhere. So we’ve tried to work with the manufacturing companies to ensure that they put in place mitigations to protect the staff but it’s also there for the long term future of the of the island that we allow this but it’s really important that the companies follow the mitigations that have been put in place to protect the staff. Thank you. Thanks very much, Sam. Next we have Paul Moulton from Allah man television. Good afternoon, Paul faster, my
Paul Moulton 39:52
nothing. The question is for Mr. Ashford, the numbers you gave out today and every day. I know before you talk to us, you Do a briefing to members of Tynwald and the numbers never quite the same? Because obviously you appreciate some have been published in times of time. So can you explain why today you tell us about 56. But you told members of Tynwald 108?
David Ashford 40:14
Where’s that come from? That it’s that I said it’s a snapshot in time. So we can only go off what was being processed, unconfirmed, and things carry on as the day goes on. So there is stuff that is not yet fed into the system, we are looking to change the way the system works. So that it becomes a much more of a less manual process with people feeding in. So the snapshot at the point I gave, and that’s why today I stressed that it is a snapshot, and figures as they are confirmed are likely to rise throughout the day, the actual confirmed at 345 was 56. And the briefing that was given to Tynwald members included what is likely to be towards the the entire end of the day.
Paul Moulton 40:54
So why not just give more number to everybody really,
David Ashford 40:57
because the actual official confirmed at the point of the snapshot is the 56. Because that is what’s being fed into the medical systems.
Paul Moulton 41:04
When is it going live? You keep talking about this? How long now?
David Ashford 41:07
So I believe within the next few days. Okay,
Paul Moulton 41:09
my next questions for you it really and the other day, you were talking about symptoms, and you were pushed, maybe there should be others added to the list. And you declined to do that. I spoke to somebody who I know really well. And he had a very, very severe headache. Now he knew something was wrong. He knew also he couldn’t get seen by 111, because he didn’t hit the criteria. So effectively, he had to make up the other items just to be seen. And he was positive. Now this is not the only case because I’ve seen it on social media, even the track and trace team have put on themselves, the vesting a lot of people, the only thing they’re getting is a very severe headache. Do you think it’s time to change those specifications now and add that to the list?
Henrietta Ewart 41:53
This is a very difficult one to actually take a definitive call on if you look and you can do it yourself just by googling. Got a lovely smile. It’s afternoon, Paul, it’s always such a pleasure talking to you. So you can google and in fact, you can report back to me tomorrow, here’s some homework for you. You can Google a selection of countries, you only need to do ones where they’re English speaking and look at their COVID symptom definition. And you will see that there is a huge variation. So Guernsey has a great long list, which they based on a local survey that they did. Now the problem with the local survey is that it’s a retrospective survey based on what people remember, and then put on a tick list. So there’s all sorts of methodological issues around that. Gibraltar did something similar and came up with a similar list. Australia still sticks with the basic three symptoms that we had right back at the beginning, who has a longer and much more nuanced levels of lists. ecdc has the same list that we have. Ireland has that list because they follow ecdc England as a three symptom list. So you pay your money and you take your choice. One thing you have to remember, and certainly our 111 colleagues will tell us this is that you have to manage demand somehow. Now one of the problems we have with all the vague and nonspecific symptoms, is it’s very difficult to tell whether someone who reports with those and goes on to test positive to COVID, whether the COVID actually caused the symptoms, or whether they were actually asymptomatic for COVID, and just happened to have another random symptom that wasn’t necessarily linked. So there is no perfect way of doing this. But one does have to try and balance demand with supply of tests. And we have to say that the approach we’ve taken so far has worked very well. It managed to keep us with the eight months of COVID prix that we’ve all enjoyed. And at the moment, we’re not planning to change the 111 criteria. Thank you, for you, except
Paul Moulton 44:08
that the headache could be I mean, it’s definitely potentially should be on that list. And if you don’t change the list, are you accepting it could be a cause of factor?
Henrietta Ewart 44:17
We don’t know because the evidence to link the specificity of those symptoms with COVID is not yet good enough. It could be that somebody is asymptomatic for COVID, but happens to have a headache, or muscular aches and pains. We don’t know, because the data isn’t good enough to look at the sensitivity and specificity of all those nonspecific symptoms as predictors of the likelihood of COVID.
Paul Moulton 44:45
So you are accepting that if people have a headache, they think they may have it, they actually have to make up other things to get seen. I mean, that’s what we’re talking about here. somebody thinks they’ve got it, they want to be seen and you’re saying headache alone is not the criteria to go for a test.
Henrietta Ewart 45:00
No against the ecdc criteria, which are followed not only by us, but the whole of the European Union, including Ireland, as I just indicated, that is the approach we’re taking. We can’t rule out that it’ll miss some people. But then, you know, as with any screening test, and effectively, that’s what we’re saying these headline symptoms are, they’re a screen for COVID. So there were always for any screening test, be people who did have the condition, but didn’t meet the criteria of the screening test. There’s no perfect way of doing it without either overwhelming the system, or moving to a system of just random population testing. And actually, at the moment, we’re getting a higher yield by going for the people with the front rank symptoms.
Howard Quayle 45:47
Okay, thanks very much, Paul, I hope you can all see it. This isn’t easy when you’re trying to win. There are so many variants across the whole of the world, but we go with the evidence. If the evidence changes, and we see a report that comes out and it’s tested evidence, then of course, we will move our position but we’re sticking with the current position, which as the doctor would have said, the whole of Europe, England, Australia also follow. Next, we’ll move on to Josh Stokes off our last and least I should say, just Stokes ITV. Granada. Good afternoon, Josh faster. My Good afternoon,
Josh Stokes 46:21
Chief Minister, can we just get an update on where we’re up to with the steam packet investigation? Please, can you just remind us of what exactly you’ve asked the chief secretary to investigate?
Howard Quayle 46:31
I’ve asked the chief secretary to appoint a person to do a review of the situation between the how we got into the situation where we have someone from the steam packet who was infected, go on to spread the virus into family and then onto the island. That’s what I’ve asked to do so that we can have a review to see what went wrong. What can we learn from that. So that moving forward, we reduce the the likelihood of this happening now, or for history, and maybe in three, four years, if there’s another outbreak of a different variant of COVID, that requires the sort of response that people can learn from the situation that that happened this time around. And I hope to get that as soon as possible. But it’s not going to stop how we treat and fight the outbreak of COVID on the island. But it’s important that we learn from it ensure that we can stop this from happening again.
Josh Stokes 47:28
The reason I asked is just speaking to people on the high street over the week, it’s still very much a common topic that keeps coming up. People want to know more about what has happened and how significant it is in relation to the rise of cases. So given the potential repercussions of the miscommunication, as you described it, shouldn’t the government be taking a bit more seriously,
Howard Quayle 47:44
what we are taking that’s why I’ve asked for a review, Josh, I do take it seriously that something’s obviously gone wrong. And I want it investigated so that we can learn from this have a review to ensure that going forward. What I didn’t want to prejudge whatever the review finds or as good as states are wait for that with an open mind. But we are we will we are having a review. Because obviously we need to learn from it to ensure it doesn’t happen again. So and I’m happy to share that report long as there’s no personal individual data. happy to share that in the future. Okay, thank
Josh Stokes 48:19
you. My second questions good to hear the island’s exit strategy is coming tomorrow. How closely aligned is this strategy with the UK exit plan? For example, the UK is aiming for that 21st of June day to lift all legal limits on social contracts. Can we expect something similar here?
Howard Quayle 48:35
Well, we’re we’ve tried to come up with something that’s relevant to the Isle of Man and the UK have a tendency to come up with dates, and then not necessarily deliver on those dates. So I think it’s important that we go with the data, first and foremost, but as I say, we will be sharing it with Tim world tomorrow. And after Tim will we will be putting it online for people to to have a look and and comment themselves. Or David, if you want to add anything to that.
David Ashford 49:00
Yet, we have to remember Josh that the dates that are within the England plan or earliest dates, the Prime Minister has made absolutely clear that as he says and the Chief Minister use the phrase earlier, it’s data not dates that will drive the process. So we just need to be a bit careful even with the UK plan of saying that is when they are going to do something because the Prime Minister has been quite clear that if things changed in a way those dates will have to move back.
Josh Stokes 49:27
Can we at least now expect a gradual easing of restrictions off the back of this lockdown this time with social distancing and limitations on groups etc are still in place. Initially when we eventually come out of this lockdown,
David Ashford 49:37
it will depend upon the situation that we find ourselves in at that time. And we will obviously look to ease things but we will need to be data driven. So as we are still getting cases through that are related to pre lockdown, we need to see what the data is saying to us, which comes in after the after the circuit breaker has been put in place.
Josh Stokes 49:57
And just finally, if I may the 21 days, we still sticking Is 21 days in this lockdown, there’s not been extended yet,
Howard Quayle 50:04
at this moment in time is 21 days obviously will be a lot, we’ll have a lot more knowledge by the end of the week as to the number of cases we’ve been getting, and how the circuit break that we brought in the the lockdown that we’ve brought in, is working. But it’s still too early to say whether we’ll have to extend it or not, Josh. But you know, at this moment in time, given the numbers, it looks likely that we may have to extend it. But let’s wait until we have more data and can review it in a week’s time.
Josh Stokes 50:34
Howard Quayle 50:35
Thanks very much, Josh. And and thank you all very much for those questions. And thank you for everything you’re 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 an all of our hands. If you do have to go out please wear a face covering as much as possible. If you feel you have 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 very much