This is a very rough, unofficial, and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government Press Conference conducted on Saturday 9th January 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 the spoken words “Isle of Man” to “Ireland” or “all of man”.
Before relying or quoting anything contained here, you should verify it against the underlying audio recorded here. Time Stamps and automatically-generated speaker names should help in the verification.
Howard Quayle 0:00
Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for taking the time to watch and listen today. I’m back sooner than I’ve expected, and I’m joined by the Minister for Education, sport and culture, Dr. Alex alanson. And our Director of Public Health Dr. Henrietta urut. This morning government announced two new cases of COVID-19. These positive test results came in late yesterday evening, and contact tracing began immediately. Through that initial process, our contact tracing team have so far been unable to identify any solid link to the existing cases of COVID-19 on the island, including the cases announced on New Year’s Eve, and on Tuesday of this week. Given the time course, it is likely that these cases are related to the to the current clusters, and we may yet identify a link through further contact tracing. However, and regardless of whether we do identify the link, these cases indicate that the virus has spread beyond the immediate contacts of the previous cases into the wider community. I know this will come as a blow last year together, we all worked so hard, and were successful in eliminating the virus, stopping it from circulating in our community for more than six months, a remarkable achievement given the situation that surrounds us. Having initially succeeded in a net and eliminating the virus, the Council of Ministers has continually adapted the measures in place to protect our island, notably our border controls to reflect the level of infection in the United Kingdom, in order to mitigate the risk it poses to our community. This has not been an easy task. And as I’ve said before, it has always been about balancing risk and consequence, whether these are economic, social or health related. Despite the strong measures put in place by government and all of your efforts. These two new cases once again, demonstrate why it is so important. We remain vigilant government and the public alike. I understand the concern that this will be caused from the circumstances of one of these cases, which I will ask Dr. us to go through in a moment, as it involves St. Mary’s Primary School in Douglas. We were spared this type of spread in our initial response to the virus last year. Anything that threatens the health of our children will of course elicit a strong emotional response. I know it will be a difficult day for the children teaching and support staff and wider families involved. Our contact tracing team are working at speed to reach all those who have potentially affected been affected by the case at St. Mary’s. Once this takes place, as set out in our announcement this morning, I would ask all those who attend or work at St. Mary’s primary school to continue to self isolate today, along with other members of their household. This is a precaution whilst the COVID 111 team contacts those potentially affected, there is no need for you to call 111 all contacts of concern should have been reached by the end of today. If you are not contacted today, then you can leave self isolation tomorrow. Those who are affected will be offered tests. Anyone who tests positive or who declines a test will have to continue their self isolation and further contact tracing will take place. Many of you watching and listening will likely be familiar with the evidence that children with COVID-19 tend not to be as badly affected by the virus as adults. It is important we bear this in mind. I will now hand over to Dr. Yu er to will take you through the case details and also how children tend to react to the COVID virus. Henrietta.
Henrietta Ewart 4:09
Thank you, Chief Minister. Obviously, what we can share in respect of an individual case is limited within the bounds of patient confidentiality. But what we can say is that this is a primary school child from St. Mary’s as we know who has tested positive and that testing was in the context of one of our routine screening programmes, checking people who are awaiting a hospital investigation or hospital treatment. So this was an asymptomatic case who has picked up on an existing programme. In terms of contact tracing for this case, what we will be doing is two things we’re trying to track backwards to see where this child got the infection, because it clearly wasn’t a case of spontaneous generation. It’s come from a transmission line. And we want as far as we are able to identify that so that we can actually then follow that through and close that train of transmission down and make sure it’s not spreading further into the community. The other thing, of course, that we want to do is track forwards to identify all close contacts of that case, as we do in any case, to ensure that they are self isolated, tested, and further contact tracing is done, again to shut down the forward transmission chain. So all of that will be carrying on. And that’s why we do very focused testing. Rather than scatter gunning by offering testing to a large group, what we really want to do is close down both the forwards and backwards chains here chains here. And to do that, we have to be able to identify them in a systematic manner, and make sure that we are preserving the testing capacity to focus on those as the priority and not swamping the system by testing people who are at potentially no risk. In terms of the age range, it’s very interesting. What we have here is a primary school aged child, when we know from all the data across that the age group five to nine, actually seems to have a significantly lower rate of infection than other age groups. So epidemiologically this is actually an extremely interesting finding that we have here to understand how that happened in that school, in a child of an age where infection is at low rates in other places. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 6:32
And thank you very much for that, Henrietta. Now, as well as our contact tracing, breaking that all important chain of infection is absolutely critical to our response. This is where we all have a role to play. Please follow the rules. Stay at home wherever possible. Ask yourself each time you leave the house is my trip absolutely essential. The more we can avoid contact with other members of our community, the quicker we can break this outbreak and have it under control. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. When outside your home. Could we all face if you can, and please keep your distance from other people. Our behaviours are the front line in this fight. For example, I have received a number of comments that some individuals are leaving disposable face masks in shopping trolleys. This means someone else has to pick it up, potentially negating the whole benefits of having wallets in the first place. Please think carefully about your actions. I will now hand over to minister alanson. Who would like to say a few words. Alex.
Alex Allinson 7:41
Thank you. Good afternoon. I’d like to thank the head teachers in Mary’s school for her help overnight. I hope the child has been tested positive remains well, would I send my best wishes to them and their family as education minister, and as a father, I’ve always been concerned about the effects COVID-19 may have our young people, we know that they often have few of any symptoms if they catch the virus, and it’s in that are at no increased risk of spreading it. But the anxiety and concern on our island affects them as well. their education was disrupted last year when we were forced to close schools and uncertainty over the exams this summer hasn’t helped. That’s why the chief minister announced the circuit break lockdown this week. We need to get on top of this outbreak to eradicate the virus from our island again, and continue the vaccination campaign already well underway. I would like to thank all our teachers who have shown their usual true dedication and versatility in switching our service efficiently to remote learning and a hub school system for vulnerable children and those of essential workers. I’d also like to thank the students and their parents for their positive feedback over the last few days, but today emphasises the importance of all of us working together. Please stay at home wherever possible. And if you must go out, wash your hands remain socially distant and wear a mask in public if you can. We will continue to keep those staff and students in schools safe and through distance learning, ensure pupils keep up with their school curriculum and are able to keep their education on track for when we reopen schools again. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 9:20
Thank you very much, Alex, as well as the two cases we identified yesterday evening. Last night we also received confirmation that one of the tests we have sent away to Liverpool for genomic analysis was confirmed to be the new UK strain of the virus known as B 117. The sample was not from the cluster we announced on New Year’s Eve, but instead from an earlier set of results that we sent away for genomic analysis. The strain was detected and a patient who returned to the island following a medical appointment in the UK last year. They self isolated upon their return and as a result, we do not believe that would have been any onward transmission. Once the B 117 variant was announced by the UK Secretary of State for health and social care on the 14th of December, the earliest signs of this variant go back to the middle of September. That is three months prior to the publication of the genomic study that identified and analysed the new strain. viruses can constantly adapt and mutate the B one one strain is but one of many COVID-19 variants. A prime example I’ve used before to demonstrate this constant process of virus mutation is the flu virus, it to continuously adapts and mutates, which is why we have to vaccinate each year against new strains. On the genomic results for the cases for from New Year, I am advised that these are now expected towards the middle of next week. Regardless of this, we now know that the strain the new strain has visited our island. We have covered a lot of ground on the new variant in recent days. And I will hand over to Dr. US who will I’m sure be pleased to go over the facts again. Before I do so I would like everyone to understand something fundamental to our approach to addressing this pandemic. The Isle of Man government’s response to the virus since day one has been to pursue a strategy of elimination. We are not seeking to suppress the spread of the virus. We are not seeking a way to coexist with the virus. We are not seeking to make the virus a normal part of our lives. Our current strategy is to eliminate the virus from our island. While suppression or mitigation is the only strategically real is only strategically, realistically available to many countries where the virus has and continues to spread rapidly, including the United Kingdom. The Council of Ministers remains resolute that our objective is to obliterate the virus from our shores, and we hope allow life to return to normal as quickly as possible. Why is this is this point important? Because I use it to illustrate that it makes no difference what variations of the virus reach our shores, our outbreak response is the same regardless, because of our strategy is one of elimination. To illustrate this point, we now know the new variant made its way to the Isle of Man. But the measures we have played have in place and our response remain unchanged. Dr. You What would you like to say a little bit more on the topic of the variants?
Henrietta Ewart 12:40
Thank you, Chief Minister, I’d first just like to underline what the chief minister has just said, which is that knowledge of which variant is involved makes no difference to the communicable disease control response to cases, clusters or outbreaks. That is the same regardless of the variant. So to recap about what we know about the variant, as Chief Minister has already said, retrospective analysis in the UK identifies that it has been around really since September, but really started to become noticeable as a major driver of spread, and the major component of infection during the lockdown period in November. And you’ll probably remember that one of the features that went with that was that despite lockdown measures, rates started to rise and quite noticeably, so around the southeast, initially, particularly Kent, but then more broadly around the southeast London and the East of England. And that has been found to be largely driven by the new variant. And one of the interesting things that was found in relation to that and it’s worth touching on in relation to the case we know having a child is that rates of infection appeared to be good. Well, they were going up in younger age groups, not actually primary school age groups, as I noted before, but in secondary school, there were definitely an increased number of cases. And that led to some hypothesising that perhaps the new variant was particularly successful at infecting children and young people, a group who previously seemed to have had lesser infectivity than older age groups. Now analysis of the currently available statistics suggests that it’s not better at infecting children and young people. It’s just that during November, lockdown, children and young people were a major group that continued to mix because schools remained open. So that seems to be the driver for what’s happened there rather than a different behaviour of the virus and a different interaction with younger hosts. So what we know about the new variant is that it does have significantly increased transmissibility between 50 and 70%, more than the usual variants, and that probably translates into an our number of 3.3 to 3.9. So whereas with the older variants, one infected person would, on average go on to infect three others with the new variant, they go on to in fact, on average 3.3 to 3.9 others. So that is how the dynamics of the the increased infectivity and spread works. Now, on a more encouraging note, the emerging data and obviously that’s accruing all the time continues to indicate that although it’s more transmissible, and more effective, it does not cause more serious disease, or raise the mortality rates. So that is very good news. In terms of burden on the health services, though, and we’re certainly seeing this playing out in front of our eyes, more or less hour by hour hour across, the more people are infected, even though the same proportion will be seriously ill and need to go into hospital, the more infected the more obviously, we’ll need the hospital services. So that is another reason to be particularly vigilant here. Because obviously everything here is on a much smaller scale and across, we have very little buffering capacity, and it would take very little to destabilise our health and care services here. Oh, one more point, again, emerging, and we’ll get more clear as we go on. But the other thing that is good news is that currently, it looks as if the currently available vaccines will continue to be effective against the new variant. And furthermore, if the new variant or further iterations of new variants become resistant to the vaccines or resistant is the wrong word, I shouldn’t have said that the vaccines become ineffective, then the mRNA vaccine technology particularly lends itself to tweaking in the same way as we do with the flu vaccines every year. So we are not in a point where we have to be, you know, downcast about thinking that the advantage we’re hoping for from the vaccines is going to be lost. That doesn’t appear to be the case.
Howard Quayle 17:23
Thank you very much, Henrietta. I know that media coverage about the UK and South African variants of the virus and public discourse has raised understandable concern about what this means and the consequences, including a more rapid spread, the Council of Ministers will continue to follow the science and public health advice in pursuing our elimination strategy. And now two questions from the media with the usual reminder that we must, of course, be careful about providing sensitive information that could inadvertently identify people. And first we have today is Paul Moulton from Isle of Man, television. Good afternoon, Paul Foster. My
Paul Moulton 18:02
afternoon, Chief Minister. Clearly, I think, from what you’re saying there that this one person in the school that has been found positive, although show no symptoms only has come to light, because they had a test for some other reason, which immediately puts everyone now on much more of a higher warning today, not that there should be more testing going on. You said in the very beginning test test test. This would not have been caught it this early, if that person hadn’t gone for test for some other reason.
Howard Quayle 18:33
And reactor, would you like to do that?
Henrietta Ewart 18:35
That is true. Yes.
Paul Moulton 18:37
Are you not worried that that could have been weeks before? You could have done the tracing back to find that one person who is school forget the children being infected, it’s them all going home to their parents, this could be what would be deemed a super spreader was being caught Luckily, quite early.
Henrietta Ewart 18:53
No, there is no reason whatsoever. And I must stress that to believe that this particular case, is a super spreader, or indeed that any particular case is a super spreader. And it’s really important not to make statements like that, I think, for sensitivities that potentially go around that block where I think you might have been trying to go with this, although we have been through this multiple times around the issue of continuous ongoing population testing, because clearly, there would not have been any particular reason to go in and offer testing to a particular school or a particular anything else. So should we have been doing widespread mass population testing? As I say, we’ve been through multiple times in these sessions, why that is not indicated. Why the evidence for that even in high prevalence areas, such as Liverpool being a very prime example is not there. And that actually, if you offer mass testing, you will only get a snapshot. It doesn’t show whether that person is actually In fact, it, it just shows whether they’re shedding at the time that you did the test. And you then have all the issues around who comes forward for mass testing, they are generally not representative of the entire population, there will be certain people who present for that kind of thing, and others who for whatever reason, actually try and avoid that kind of mass offer, even though they may actually be at more risk than the people that do come forward. Overwhelmingly, this is a virus that passes from person to person contact. So the way to control it is to avoid as many interpersonal contacts as you can. And you can do that without the need for a test. Indeed, a test can actually cause problems with that, because it can give false reassurance, if your test is negative, you may falsely interpret that to me, you are at no risk to yourself, or anybody else. And you can do what you like, and perhaps be a little bit more interactive with others than you might have been otherwise. And of course, just being told you have a positive test result, again, doesn’t necessarily change behaviour. And that’s certainly been an issue that’s been experienced across where there are concerns about the response of people who’ve actually been contacted through the trust track and trace system and asked to self isolate. And the evidence that in some circumstances, actually only a very small portion of people advise to do that, actually do do it. Okay.
Howard Quayle 21:34
Thank you Your next question, Paul, please. Finish your next question. Please. Let
Paul Moulton 21:40
me ask you a foreign question on this very important day.
Howard Quayle 21:43
You asked exactly the same question yesterday? No,
Paul Moulton 21:46
not at all. Because super spreading is just a terminology we’re using in the general public, a school child for two days, has had the chance to spread that amongst all the other children. That’s why we buy superstars that don’t take the you know, I don’t know the exact word you want to use. But that is quite serious, isn’t it?
Howard Quayle 22:03
Well, I think you’ve had a rather lengthy answer from the Director of Public Health on on that topic. So do you want to move on to next question?
Paul Moulton 22:11
Okay. You said you’ve had this one result back, which has got the UK very into the new one. But that goes back some time. We’re still down to this point of finding out what’s in the community right now. Is this not the moment now to talk to Rachel Glover make up new chief minister to talk to her directly to see the issues behind the scenes to go to her and get these tests speeded up and done on the Isle of Man and turn round quicker?
Howard Quayle 22:35
No, Paul, because it wouldn’t be recognised. This test is done in the UK for part of their data research. And we did it on the Isle of Man, they would not accept our results, it has to go away to a recognised centre, which we did say only the other day, Henrietta, would you like to expand on that?
Henrietta Ewart 22:52
Yes, we have covered this multiple times. We send our tests and always have done to the Liverpool of oratory, which is part of the UK genomic testing network. And that has the advantage that all of it is uniformly quality control that follows the same protocols, it’s consistent, and it feeds into the overall data to enable us to understand how we fit in with the bigger picture, and also for the UK to see how the spread is happening.
Paul Moulton 23:21
Okay, so how long before we know the current cases, these two cases? How long would it take us to find out what variant they are from from today? How long before you’ll be able to report back?
Henrietta Ewart 23:31
It will take five days from there being received in the Liverpool of oratory. But can I say yes, again, that the nature of the variant involved makes no difference to the communicable disease control actions, which are already underway and will not be altered, even when we do have the results.
Paul Moulton 23:49
How long those people can be in contact, surely, it was 15 minutes, if it’s super spreader. If it’s the new variant, it’s a matter of minutes, two and a half minutes would make it a contact will trace
Henrietta Ewart 23:59
because you have no evidence to refine the definitions of close or less close contacts at present, maybe we will have in time, but we don’t at the moment. At such time, as we do have any data that changes our definitions of contacts, we would apply that across the board in terms of regarding everything as possible new variants. And we would therefore change all our communicable disease and health protection protocols. So again, thanks to the immediate management
Paul Moulton 24:31
is still 15 minutes then to be in contact with somebody
Henrietta Ewart 24:34
within two metres
Paul Moulton 24:37
and 15 minutes in duration, over 15 minutes in duration.
Henrietta Ewart 24:40
That is one of the definitions and it’s the easiest one to hold on to that are actually a whole list that one would work through as a contact tracer. So for example, if you’ve been for an hour in a poorly ventilated room with a large number of people that would put up the risk which is indeed the sort of definitely We applied when we were looking at the pubs and clubs that came up as venues in previous clusters.
Howard Quayle 25:05
Okay, thank you very much. We now move on to just Stokes from ITV. Granada. Good afternoon, Josh faster my,
Josh Stokes 25:15
understandably a lot of worry and speculation about what will happen now, given the potential community spread, can you lay out exactly what could change on Ireland now with this current lockdown strategy if this spread continues, or is the only potential change now on the borders?
Henrietta Ewart 25:31
If everybody does what they’re currently being advised to do, which is stay at home, go out only for essential shopping or for exercise keeping socially distanced and wearing face coverings, we will get it back under control, because as I say, overwhelmingly this virus is spread by person to person interactions, you reduce those to the minimum, you will reduce spread. And I think in that respect, it’s actually worth us echoing the current advice from the chief medical officer across. Fortunately, we’re in nothing like the situation that the UK finds itself. But his advice, which is to everybody, all of us should behave as if we are infected with COVID. And I think that’s actually a good take home message for us at the moment. And if we all do that, the chances are, we will be able to get on top of the current issue that we have, you know, the clusters with transmission chains, which seem to have gone away into the community now. But if we all behave as if we’re infected, then we have a very good chance of getting it back under control and re establishing local elimination.
Howard Quayle 26:40
Thanks. So we’d like to say just before we move on to your next question, we’ve done this once on the Isle of Man, and I’m at every conference, we can do this again.
Josh Stokes 26:48
Okay, thank you. My second question, we’re obviously currently in five B of the borders frameworks, the only next step is to tighten the lockdown and go to five a, in your mind, if community spread is confirmed, would you move to Friday?
Howard Quayle 27:00
Well, Joshua, nothing is in tablets of stone. So we the Council of Ministers, where we’ve we’ve met earlier this morning, we had a quick, late night meeting last night, we’ll be meeting tomorrow, if new evidence comes along, or recommendations from our public health, or our medics that we need to take a slightly different course of direction or a tightening, then we will of course, take that on board. And we will then of course, let you all know. But I have nothing at this moment in time to say we will be toughening up on X or Y for you. Thanks. Thanks very much, Josh. Next, we move on to Adrian from all of my newspapers. Take themselves on mute, please. Hello, Adrian. Good afternoon, Adrian.
Adrian Darbyshire 27:51
Hi, will children in specific year groups at St. Mary’s be offered testing.
Howard Quayle 27:59
And we just keep on passing these on to you. But there must
Henrietta Ewart 28:04
be the identified case. And that will include their classmates.
Unknown Speaker 28:16
Thank you. My second question to the Chief Minister. And he told pinaud last month Have there been one thing you would have done differently? And during the last lockdown was close the borders one week earlier? Is there anything you would have done differently to prevent this current situation?
Howard Quayle 28:40
Well, I gave that as an answer, Adrian it as hindsight is a wonderful thing. There are always times when if you look back, you would say well, if we did this, again, what we would have done differently. And it was clear that whilst we were the first country in the world to shut down without a case, we had we done it a week earlier than we had better results. That was just acknowledging reality. I suppose this can be implemented when we heard on the 14th of December, about the new infection and then we saw the increase in infection rates. We did bring pretty quickly we did the same time as our colleagues in Guernsey as it happened. The testing on the 23rd of December for testing on day one and day 13 to ensure that we we were even tighter on our testing regime to catch the increase in anomalies that was impacting in the United Kingdom. You know, you could look back and say should you have done that a week earlier too. But we were pretty quick off the mark. The UK only told us on the 14th of December. And the increases if you see what happened between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, the infection rate. There has been phenomenal. So we were pretty quick and Bringing in the new changes. And it wasn’t that long ago, one of the a couple of days ago, I had some people suggesting that I’d locked the island down far too fast. Because we hadn’t had any cases for a couple of days. So now, you know, I’m sure people will saying, Oh, you should have locked, you should never have opened up, we also have to take into account that’s the only way we’d have kept this off the island, we’ve always acknowledged there was a risk as if we totally shut down and allowed no one on, and no one off for nearly a year. Now, clearly, that could not continue to happen. We need to get medics to come over to help at the hospital. We need key staff for all sorts of businesses. We have done our best and I would say we’ve had nearly seven months. We’ll get that back there again, Adrian, I think we’ve done the very best that we can situation constantly moves and we will move with it. Thank you very much. Okay, right, we move on to Alex Bell now of BBC Isle of Man. And good afternoon, Alex faster. My
Alex Bell 31:01
Good afternoon. And could we just clarify, please, what exactly is the 111 advice being given to some patients, I mean, you’ve told us just today that some patients have been told they can leave self isolation. So some contacts can leave self isolation without a test if they’re not contacted by contact tracing today. And indeed, I’ve heard from one key worker this morning, who alleges they were told by 111 to self isolate, but they can leave their home, as long as they keep a paper trail of their movements, is this not raising the possibility further of community spread?
Howard Quayle 31:34
Right. And we
Henrietta Ewart 31:36
really can’t comment on that, that sounds very strange advice, which is not as far as I’m aware, in line with any of the protocols that are used. So I would have to actually verify the circumstances before I could comment any further, in terms of people who are low risk contacts. Obviously, as always, we ask them to be vigilant, they don’t have to self isolate, they should, of course, follow all the stay at home guidance that we expect everybody to follow. And they should be very aware of the emergence of any symptoms. And if they experienced them, they should report to 111 and potentially be tested. Now, obviously, if anybody in that circumstance does test positive, then they will have to speak to the contact tracing team. And if they have got a sort of note of where they’ve been, it will obviously make contact tracing much, much easier. So it’s not bad advice in that respect. And that’s, you know, that that would fit with advice to a low risk contact.
Howard Quayle 32:39
But I will take you on board your comments, Alex, that I’ll speak to the head of the 111, just to make sure that if there’s any slight deviance or messaging going on that we you know, we are clear, I’m not saying that’s happened in this instance, maybe the other person has misinterpreted it. But if if that’s the case, then obviously we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
Alex Bell 32:59
Especially the one more mom have a flowchart that they follow in terms of the advice they did that they don’t know, is that going to be published?
Henrietta Ewart 33:07
We wouldn’t normally publish those. There’s no particular reason why not to obviously any service like that has a set of protocols, standard operating procedures, and indeed standard scripts that they use with callers. Thank you can
Alex Bell 33:23
ask a question of Dr. Allinson, please?
Unknown Speaker 33:29
Certainly. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Dr.
Alex Bell 33:32
m. Could you confirm that actually, during this lockdown, the amount of children attending hub schools is around double that of the first lockdown. And in light of this concern over spread potentially, in this confirmed spread in school child? And will you be seeking to reduce these numbers?
Alex Allinson 33:50
Okay. Thanks very much for your question. And for inviting me to actually say something in the in this conference, because we are talking very much about schools. You’re right, the numbers are slightly up on where we were at the start of the last lockdown. On Thursday and Friday, we had about 3% of secondary school students, and around about 9% of primary school students. So still really quite low numbers. And these are vulnerable children are the children of key workers. And it’s very, very important that we ensure that they have access to education to support those frontline services. Now the advice to all parents is if you can keep your children at home, please do so send them to school if you have to. But but that that advice goes right across the board, and I’d like to re emphasise that for Monday morning. But we it’s imperative that we have that educational facility for those key workers and vulnerable children. If I can put that into context in terms of St. Mary’s, which obviously was open on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then was closed. They had 11 children were sent to the hub school which is Henry blue noble, out of 229. Now I’ve I’ve talked this Morning to Mrs. Martin, who’s the head teacher of St. Mary’s, all those 11 children were kept completely separate to anyone else at the Henry bloom noble hub. So I know online, there’s been some anxiety from some of the other parents that were there. But I can reassure you that those 11 children were kept apart from any other children in that in that hub. Um, ever since that marriage has been opened, they’ve been really emphasising hand washing hygiene measures, and keeping the class groups and the air groups separate from each other. So what we’re seeing is an educational service being really responsible, doing as much as possible to look after the health and safety not only of those pupils, but the staff at those schools, and ensure that there is a minimal risk of infection spreading within the school or spreading outside the school. But I can completely understand that there is concern there. What I’m also concerned about is the education of our children. And we can we know, from the previous lockdown the effects it had, both in terms of education, but also the mental well being of our children. This is a horrible virus, it’s indiscriminate. It’s not fair. But we must look after the vulnerable children, children of key workers and our entire education community during this very difficult time for all of us.
Unknown Speaker 36:15
Alex Bell 36:16
Just for the record there. We had 3% of secondary, I believe you said and 9% primary, how does that compare to the first lockdown, you
Alex Allinson 36:23
have those figures? Yeah, the first lockdown when it started, it was around about one, one to two to 2% of secondary, and around about 5% of primary it built up and then it went down again. Often what we’re dealing with is is children whose parents are doing shift work, for instance, who may need the hub schools for one or two days a week. So the numbers do go up and down. But the numbers that we’ve got at the moment are very manageable within the hub system, we can manage them safely, we can keep although we have a hub school, each of those schools who feeds into it, such as St. Mary’s is kept city is kept separate from the other schools. So they’re not all mixing together. And this is what we did last time, and has been shown to be a very safe way of carrying on face to face education, and trying to mitigate and reduce the risks of any spread.
Howard Quayle 37:13
Thanks very much, Alex. Now we move on to Sam Turton from Jeff. Good afternoon, Sam faster I
Sam Turton 37:19
estimate and this is probably more one for either of the two doctors in terms of summaries just to help reassure parents, and who is it that what range of groups are Adrian? So we’re looking at in terms of contact tracing at the school, and don’t know how many people that will be yet?
Alex Allinson 37:37
Okay, I’ll probably answer if you don’t mind him. So please correct me if I’m wrong, what we’re doing here is gradually trying to space out. So you will look into the index case, this one unfortunate child, no symptoms at all picked up with the virus, then looking at their class. And analysing what what’s going on, they’re offering all those people tests, including the staff, that would have come into contact, and then looking at the year group as well. Now, if they if there are extra positive cases, then that may be then expanded to other year groups in the school. So it’s starting small and gradually working out so that you can manage the risk and properly assess it to see exactly how far this virus is spread, if at all. Because we know that asymptomatic very young primary school children actually don’t spread the virus as much as adults. And in fact, children are more risk of catching the virus from an adult than the other way around.
Howard Quayle 38:33
And we after that you’d like to add to that. Okay, thank you, Sam.
Sam Turton 38:39
So can we just clarify? And do we know what sort of numbers we are looking at, and
Alex Allinson 38:42
when we can expect the test results to come back on them? The testing and tracing is happening as we speak, the press release that went out this morning, was at the same time as people started getting telephone calls. As I said, we’ve been working overnight with the head teacher at St. Mary’s to move to look at all the possible contacts that were there. I can’t give you the exact figures. We’re looking at one or two class sizes to begin with. But as we can assess the risks, then that may get larger. And obviously what we’re doing today is doing testing as we speak for any of those families that might be affected.
Howard Quayle 39:17
Yeah, it certainly won’t be this afternoon. it’ll it’ll be later on tonight. Sam at the very earliest. So it’ll be tomorrow, probably before we can give you an update. But we obviously we will give a press release or hold a briefing. If we fail. There is a need to do that. Sam. Thank you.
Sam Turton 39:34
And then just secondly, questions about support wasn’t last few days. I just want to emphasise that we can move on the support or whatever given the situation. We are unfortunately we will just have to stay as we are for a few days at least.
Howard Quayle 39:49
Yeah, I don’t see any. There’s no way that we can do support baubles, Sam, we are allowing if you’re a vulnerable person living on your own and a family member has historically gone In two or a person to look after you to bath, you say, give me your food and feed you, then that can continue. But having bubbles of other families meeting with you, I’m afraid, you know, we went in hard on this, because we wanted to break the link as quickly as possible and get back to our normal lives. If we allow support puzzles, then I’m afraid we’re just extending the length of period that people on the Isle of Man will have to isolate. So it’s in everyone’s interest that we, you know, we, we deal with this as quickly and fairly hard on what we have to do. We did it the first time. We got through it pretty quickly compared with other jurisdictions. And I hope to do it exactly the same again this time, Sam, but thanks for asking. I understand the concern. If you’re living on your own, you can’t see your family. It is really tough. Obviously, this Facebook, the there’s teams and the phone to communicate with people. But you know, people are only a couple of days into the situation so far. So hopefully they can just bear with us a little bit longer. But thanks very much, Sam. Next we have Leanne cook from three FM. Good afternoon, Leon foster my Good afternoon,
Leanne Cook 41:15
Chief Minister, my first question depending on the next few days, do you think we can expect to change to the 21 day lockdown? And if so when do you think you’ll be able to advise this?
Howard Quayle 41:28
Well, obviously, when it’ll go on the number of cases, I’ve said clearly that we’d be looking for about 14 days of no community cases before we could look to make major changes to our lockdown. Obviously, there’s some way to go yet, but we will keep you all in the loop. The minute we feel that we can make changes, but sadly, at this moment in time, given the evidence that we received last night and early this morning. It’s it’s not looking good for the short, you know, for anything before the 21 days, but we will of course, keep you in the loop Leon.
Leanne Cook 42:05
Okay. My second question. Obviously the news today that COVID may have spread within the community. At the moment people are allowed to exercise for an unrestricted amount of time. Are there any plans to restrict restrict this down to one hour as done previously?
Howard Quayle 42:21
Well, again, that will be based on the advice from our Director of Public Health and our medic team. I don’t know, Henrietta, if there’s anything you would like to say on that point, please?
Henrietta Ewart 42:33
Yes, I think what we need to do is complete the processes we currently have in place for the contact tracing and further testing for both these cases, not just the child but also the adult. And when we’ve got all that back in and that will start coming in over the weekend, we can reassess and regroup in terms of the restrictions that we have and whether they need to be tightened up.
Leanne Cook 42:59
Just to clarify, do you think we can perhaps expect kind of new clarification early next week? Yes, I
Henrietta Ewart 43:08
think that’s a reasonable timeframe.
Leanne Cook 43:11
Okay, thank you. Okay. Obviously, the
Howard Quayle 43:13
Council of Ministers. We’re having meetings every day as a result of this situation. The minute we feel the need to make changes, we will of course, advise everyone straight away. Thanks very much. We are and now we move on to Tim Glover from Manx radio. Good afternoon, Tim faster. My
Tim Glover 43:31
Yes, faster. My Chief Minister, and the two doctors have been absolutely inundated with correspondence, particularly through this briefing as well. People feel that they’re being asked a lot, but they feel there’s a lack of urgency this time around. They’re wanting tighter borders, rigorous wider testing, especially at the borders quicker vaccine rollout programme. Dr. Glover expertise being used for the good of the island. And the way you treated pour molten at this briefing has led to a lot of comments. Are you in danger after doing so well of losing the room? No, I
Howard Quayle 44:07
don’t think so. I think when you get concerned when people use inflammatory language and potentially want to panic the public, we have increased the testing regime and the previous outbreak we didn’t do day one day 13 testing. That’s something new that we’ve brought in. So we are learning from from this period of time, and we will react accordingly. I don’t know how to react if you want to.
Henrietta Ewart 44:34
Yes, I mean, the testing and self isolation arrangements at the border are now extremely strong. The default is you come into the island, you self isolate for 21 days. So that’s well beyond the 14 days which is the expected incubation period. And that’s to make sure we catch that 1% whose incubation period goes beyond For 14 days, and we talked about that before, you can shorten that time, if you agree to three point testing. So you have testing on day one, on day six, seven, and day 13. And if all three of those tests are negative, you can leave self isolation on day 14, you can no longer when you come onto the island, rejoin a household of people who haven’t travelled. So that avoids any potential that a returning traveller doesn’t realise they’re infected infects other people in the household, and they somehow get out and spread it in the community. We’ve very much tightened up on that to prevent that from happening. Yeah, I
Howard Quayle 45:44
think it’s interesting to point out to him, I was looking at some posts, not recently, fairly recently, where they were criticising me for shutting the island down when we only had five or six cases. So I was accused of being over reactive, shutting the island down. And now you’re saying that people are saying that we were too slow to do that. So we’re damned if we do, and we’re damned if we don’t?
Tim Glover 46:08
Can I just finish with an asking what’s our current capacity for testing is, there was talk about being near 1000, what is our capacity, our daily capacity at the moment. And
Henrietta Ewart 46:20
there are two elements to that there is capacity for actually doing the swaps and capacity for running the tests on the laboratory platform. So the two have to be managed together, because obviously, if you can’t get the swabs done, you can’t get them to the lab. So we have very good arrangements in place with dhsc. To bring in surge capacity to increase the swabbing teams to increase the length of availability in the day. And at present, we have no issue with access to either swabbing or laboratory testing.
Unknown Speaker 46:57
So what is the figure at the moment? Well,
Henrietta Ewart 47:01
the lab platform can cope with up to 1000 a day, as I understand it, the swabbing capacity is flexed depending on the demand, because obviously the people who do the swapping are also potentially people who do other things within the health service. And so they can be moved around the system to respond to peaks and troughs in demand.
Howard Quayle 47:22
Thank you. But I want to point out an extra resources, you know, have recently have been put to help with the swabbing team if they need more people than they will of course get them should they feel the need to go over the normal amount that we do. So those resources are there and can happen straight away. Thank you. Okay, and thank you for those questions. Now we’ve been in the virus pack before with the circuit breaker measures were put in place by harnessing the remarkable strength of our islands community spirit. And by acting responsibly, I am confident that together we can do this again. So please follow the rules. Stay at home, be responsible and stay safe for you for your loved ones and for our community. Thank you very much.