This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government’s Coronavirus Media Briefing held on Sunday 28 February 2021. In particular, for any legal guidance, you should seek advice from official sources.
You should not rely heavily upon it — it is transcribed by an automated speech recognition service, and I cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any local Manx words (especially in Gaelic) are more likely to be inaccurate. Also, the automated speech recognition service often converts proper nouns incorrectly (especially the spoken words “Isle of Man” to “Ireland” or “all of man”).
Before relying or quoting anything contained here, you should verify it against the underlying audio recorded here. Time Stamps and automatically-generated speaker names should help in the verification.
Howard Quayle 0:00
Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for joining us today. And a big thank you to all of you who made the right decision yesterday, I’m aware that our announcements did lead to the cancellations of some really important events. And this will, I know have caused real disruption. I am sorry about that. But it did feel that this was the right thing to do, given the information we had, and more importantly, the information that we didn’t have. I know that our hospitality industry was heavily impacted yesterday. Before I hand over to the health and social care minister and to our Director of Public Health for an update, I do want to clarify a comment I made yesterday about the support for our businesses. What I wanted to convey was that we didn’t envisage putting in place any new arrangements at this stage, our track record on providing financial support to businesses is a good one. And the salary support scheme is still in place covering businesses for COVID related impact in February. It doesn’t matter if it was yesterday, today, or the whole month, the economic recovery group led by the Treasury minister will continue to monitor the overall position and the impact our decisions make. Thank you once again to our business community who alongside the general public listened and acted doing the right thing for their island. Yesterday, we told you that we could not explain the two cases that we had seen, we were concerned that there was a risk that COVID may be present under the surface of our community. But the evidence that we had yesterday was not conclusive. So we wanted to give ourselves another 24 hours to test and trace. In order to be able to make decisions based on evidence. We wanted to see if we could understand and link these two new cases. And importantly, we wanted to get all the high risk contacts of these contacts identified, isolated and tested. We have now done that, I can tell you a little bit more about that. And where we are heading in a second. First, let me hand over to the Minister for health and social care for an update on testing. David,
David Ashford 2:12
thank you, Chief Minister, the total number of tests undertaken now stands at 32,873. The total number of tests concluded is 32,850. That means that the point that the snapshot report was taken for the figures today, there’s 23 people awaiting the results of their tests, the total number of new COVID cases identified in the past 24 hours is zero. And so that gives us a total number of active cases at the moment of 48. And the total number of cases over the outbreak is 484. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 2:50
Thank you very much, David. And now without further ado, let me hand over to the Director of Public Health for an update on our understanding of the current cases. Dr. Ewart.
Henrietta Ewart 3:01
Thank you, Chief Minister. Yes, we obviously still have the the ongoing cluster linked to the steam packet. And for that we have no additional cases that were identifying that link to it. So it’s just the cluster as it has been standing for the last few days. The two cases that we’ve been talking about today are the two unexplained ones that have come up from the community without a clear link to the existing cluster. or indeed, to any other source of infection, we have to remember that the steam package isn’t the only means of wealth, the steam bucket cluster isn’t the only transmission chain that may be out there, it’s possible that some of the other returning travellers who have tested positive may somehow have seeded infection into the community in ways that we haven’t identified and have no understanding of. So the issue there is that we potentially have missing links, we don’t know how the infection got to those two cases, we don’t know if there are links that we’re unaware of that relate those two cases to each other or to any other cases. So that means that we cannot be completely clear that there isn’t other sources of infection out in the community. But we’re not seeing it coming forward in symptomatic cases or through the surveillance testing. So far, that may change that. But that is the position at the moment. So the contact tracing that we’ve done, has identified that none of the contacts of those two cases are themselves positive. And that means that they are not a risk for having transmitted the infection further on before they were put into self isolation. So that’s good news. And that’s where we are at the moment. Obviously, we have to keep a very close eye on things and see where the further cases emerge that may change our thinking. But that’s the position for The moment. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 5:02
And thank you very much Dr. Ewart. Now, the fact that those people around are two unexplained cases have now all tested negative is grounds for optimism. Despite rigorous investigations by the contact tracing team, we are still not clear as to how these cases arose. They remain unexplained for the moment. And that may be the final position we find ourselves in. But as things stand, we are as confident as we can be that there has been no further transmission from these two cases. And at this moment in time, we have not seen any further cases. The council of ministers met earlier today to consider developments, we have decided that we do not need to bring in any further formal measures. At this stage, we have looked at all the options and concluded that we are content for people to go about their business once again. This means that schools, nurseries and University College Isle of Man can open as usual tomorrow morning, we will of course continue to monitor the situation very carefully. And things might change and might change rapidly. The next week or so will be very important in that regard. So we do need you to please maintain a high level of vigilance. Keep going with the highest levels of hygiene. If you have any COVID like symptoms, then stay at home and call 111. Please think about what it might mean to you. If we do need to do another circuit break, be ready. Just because we are not doing it today. It does not mean that we will not need to do it one day soon. And maybe at short notice. This is especially true for businesses. Thank you for what you did yesterday, and please continue to ensure you are ready to do so again should the need arise. So no measures today. We believe that this is the right and proportionate approach given the evidence we have. But if the situation changes, then of course, so will our approach. What please rest assured that if it is needed, then we will do it. We will always do what we judged to be the right thing for our island based on the best information available. Some people have been asking about social distancing and the use of face coverings. Some people have been suggesting that we should make this obligatory straightaway. Early Stage government is not going to insist on this that may come but not today. Again, it’s about a proportionate response to the to the issues that face any of us at a given time. Before we move on to questions, I do want to take a moment to update you on our vaccination programme. You may have seen coverage in the UK media that the NHS is expecting a significant increase in vaccine supply in March. We are working closely with the UK to understand what this means in terms of deliveries for us. We are still waiting for final details, but we are being told to expect a real optic. The team here is ready for this. We are reinforcing the teams to ensure that we are able to increase the pace and maintain that new pace for as long as necessary. We will of course let you know more as soon as we have any further update. In the meantime, the programme continues to make great progress. As of last night 84% of those in the first two priority groups have now had at least one dose to remind you of this is all those over at all in our residential care homes and their carers and all frontline health staff. And now of course we are vaccinating a pace are over 17 and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. So now when we look at the almost 20,000 people in our first four priority groups, where the vast majority of risks are risk of serious illnesses, rests 70% have had at least one dose every day we continue with our vaccination programme is a day where more protection is in place and a day closer to our ultimate aim. Now, David, is there anything you would like to add to this? Or maybe where we are on inviting the next groups for their appointments?
David Ashford 9:19
Thank you, Chief Minister. Yes, at previous briefings, although it’s quite a while ago now I did point out that in March, we were expecting a much higher delivery of vaccine within our schedules. So march was going to be a month where we got a real uptick in our delivered schedules anyway. So there’s additional news that there may be even further supplies than we were expecting in March is a real bonus. The team is all geared up for that. And we will be able to do hopefully several 1000 more vaccinations and we were planning to do each and every week in terms of people being invited for the vaccine, the last of the over 17 letters which have been going out in batch We’ll be going out next week. And also the first of the bachelors for those aged between 65 and 69 will be going out inviting people for their vaccine. as I’ve stated at a previous briefing on our coven term data, we believe that everyone in the vulnerable categories and those over 50 will have received their first dose by April the 19th. So that is excellent news, and that our vaccine programme is continuing apace. A couple of other bits I wish to touch on in terms of Nobles hospital, we will be keeping PP requirements in place. And so people may see people wandering around the state using PPA, more than they would in normal circumstances. That is nothing to worry about. It’s just a very good precaution to keep in a healthcare setting. Also, unfortunately, one person who was involved in the steam pocket cluster who tested positive for COVID has now been admitted to hospital. I believe they are stable, they are receiving oxygen. But they have now been admitted to hospital. So we do have one COVID case within the hospital, we will continue to have in place while we do our watch and wait over the next 10 days of visiting restrictions to limit the people coming into the hospital. So people will still have to sign in, and they will still will have to explain why they are visiting. So we do ask people in health and care settings to try and limit visitation wherever possible. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 11:32
Thank you very much, David. And that’s really important progress. I think, on behalf David, myself and the whole team, we wish the person who’s gone into hospital with COVID a speedy recovery. Right, let’s go to questions from the media. And first we have today as Sam Turton from Gef. Good afternoon, Sam, faster my
Sam Turton 11:52
Fester my, Chief Minister. If we start with business support in terms of what happened yesterday, with closures, Businesses are telling us with salary support some of them have lost up to 400 bookings last night, some of the hotels have lost a lot of money as well in terms of loss in food, it’s going to waste are they able to apply to the economic recovery group for support on this or where decisions made in terms of what will be available to them?
Howard Quayle 12:16
Well, the existing scheme Sam run up until as it happens the end of this month today. So we have support for businesses that if they can show a loss of income for the month, it doesn’t have to be just yesterday, or any income down today, if they can show that their income for the month is down, I think by 25%, then they are entitled to business support. So it’s not just that one day, it’s the whole of the whole of the period leading up to that period. So that is the support that’s already there for those businesses if they find that they are down on their income as a result of COVID, because we did obviously have the lockdown for a chunk of January, and that will can be taken into the loss of income.
Sam Turton 13:00
Thank you. And just secondly, am Mr. Ashford said about an increase to the NHS for vaccines? In terms of what I will do. I’ve seen at the minute, April 19 for the other 50s. When are we expected to know if this will increase? Do we know what how many extra vaccines we may be getting at this point? Or is it pretty much up in the air?
David Ashford 13:21
Yeah, no, we don’t know the figures yet we have been informed by the UK that we are likely to be receiving additional supply. But that is still being worked up. And to be frank any amount of vaccine we receive on top of what we’re expecting is good news, we will then have to re profile and see if that brings people forward. But we’re ready for that the teams are ready to boot additional people in if we need to do so. And we’re ready to accelerate the project based on supply. We’ve said all along we can vaccinate to the supply that we are given. And we will be able to step that up in line with the extra supplies available a very, very short notice. So it is a good news story. But at the moment on the common supply bits we know about all over 15 and those in the vulnerable category will have had at least one dose of the vaccine. Should they wish to have one by April the 19th. Hey,
Howard Quayle 14:11
thanks very much, Sam. Now we move on to Paul Moulton from Isle of Man Television. Good afternoon, Paul foster my
Paul Moulton 14:17
well the first thing I got to do is wish you Happy Birthday Cheeseman, sir.
Howard Quayle 14:20
Well, thank you very much, Paul, lovely present spending my afternoon with the gentlemen of the media party. Yeah, I should I think we get to my age. Those go out the window, don’t they? Now you have
Paul Moulton 14:35
to define protocols about situation if there was unexplained cases, and that would be the three weeks was needed between him about it and shedding shredding that goes on. And so on. This time you haven’t done that is this new protocols are making and of course, as far as my where we haven’t heard which variant we’re dealing with yet.
Howard Quayle 14:53
Right. Well, regarding the variant, Alex, Doctor, you have to comment on on a sec, I think throughout this pandemic, Paul We’re learning as we go along. And if there are variants of off the number of cases and the seriousness of the situation, then obviously, you can’t have one size fits all. So we’ve tried to respond to this where we’ve known that it was one cluster at the time. And we weren’t seeing a sporadic spread scattered around the rest of the community at at or where large events have been held, where we’re trying to look at this on a case by case basis. And what I don’t want to do is say that, if you’ve got x, then this is what happens. We’re trying to be as flexible as possible. I know the hurt and pain it can cause to businesses to people’s health, mental health, etc. and our children’s education, if we have a significant lockdown straight away. So we’re we’re trying to just look at the evidence, and be as realistic as we can based on what’s happened in the past while so we’re learning all the time. But I know David, you want to expand on that before I move on to Dr. You it’s
David Ashford 16:00
a yes, if I may, Chief Minister, they always say you know, a week is a long time in politics poor Well, I think a month in a worldwide pandemic is an exceptionally long time. So it’s easy to forget, sometimes where we were in January, and January was very different to what we’re seeing now we’ve seen to one identify cases, which is a concern, because we can’t trace back the transmission route as to where they came from. But what we were faced with in January was slightly different. We’d had the two household clusters that came off the back of December, and they added themselves had several high risk settings. We then in the January had some wallet as well, who had been involved in a high risk healthcare setting that actually tested positive. Again, we didn’t necessarily at that point know the chains of transmission. And from that case, we then saw secondary transmission on wood as well. And then a couple of cases popping up as well, where we didn’t have the link. So it was a much wider than what we’re experiencing at the moment with these two particular cases. If we saw something similar to that again, then we would have to reconsider our position. But we’re not seeing that at the moment. So I think what we’ve got to do, and it was in the chief minister’s speech before about proportionality, we have to be proportionate to the risks that we’re facing. And this situation, like I say, it’s easy to forget now four or five weeks on, but it’s very different to what we were experiencing at the start of January.
Howard Quayle 17:23
And what would you like to comment on the variant? I know you’ve got an update there. Yes, thank
Henrietta Ewart 17:28
you, Chief Minister, we’ve got the latest results through from Liverpool yesterday afternoon. And that gives us sequencing on all positive PCR samples that were sent over. The last most recent one was the 22nd of February. So we don’t have sequencing on the two cases that we’ve been talking about over the last couple of days. But we do have sequencing on everything up till the 22nd of February. And since the 17th of January, all the genomes that have been sequenced have been Kent variant. So that includes the positives that are part of the steam pocket cluster. And it also includes some travellers who come across, but not been part of that and who should have been isolated. As I commented before, we cannot therefore be sure whether these two cases that we have at the moment are related to each other, and or to the existing cluster, or whether they possibly linked back to other travel related imported cases, we don’t know. And in fact, when we get the genome sequences back, the high likelihood is that they will also be can variant, but that again, will not be able to tell us precisely whether they link to the cluster, or whether they potentially link back to other imported cases with the same variant.
Unknown Speaker 18:51
Have we been lucky yet? Again, the third time lucky?
Howard Quayle 18:55
Well, to an extent you always have a little bit of luck, Paul. But I also think it clearly shows that our contact tracing team are exceptionally professional at what they do they have gone out there quickly, they’ve worked into the night to find out who are the key contacts of anyone with a case and quickly get them isolated, get them swapped and get the test. So yes, there’s always an element of luck that more of these cases haven’t been say asymptomatic, and they’ve gone round spreading without letting anyone know. But the fact that we’ve done so well, I would say is a great part of that will be down to the professionalism of our teams who do the contact trays and across the board all our team working together, but that’s our particular
Unknown Speaker 19:40
line. My other question that obviously knocked off the headlines was the steam packet situation the inquiry took place, this inquiry and you’ve got your new protocols in place for that. That wasn’t quite there for will it be made public exactly what happened where the where the fault issues were what’s been sorted out and will the public know about it?
Howard Quayle 19:57
Well, clearly there was an opinion The steam packet felt that it was only their UK based cruise that had to comply with the rules of quarantine. And we were under the impression that they knew it was their entire cruise that had to comply with that situation, we’ve come up with a solution whereby testing and vaccinating their staff moves us out of the position where hopefully we don’t need to ask them to quarantine as long as they strictly adhere to the PP wearing on board, the the ship while sailing, I don’t know if there’s anything you’d like to add to that.
Henrietta Ewart 20:33
I think that covers it very well, Chief Minister, we can reduce as far as possible, the risk from the steam packet crew, but we can’t eliminate it. Obviously, because of the nature of the work they do, and indeed others in other transport related areas. There is a remaining risk that we will see this again. So you know, we’re going to have to live with it. Okay, thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 21:01
Thank you. Right. Now we move on to Richard Bach, from Isle of Man newspapers. Good afternoon, Richard faster, my
Unknown Speaker 21:07
assigned Chief Minister, I won’t even clarify, first of all the two cases that term I mentioned yesterday, are they related? Are they from the same household? And I’d like to know also have actually been tested and traced over the last 24 hours or so. After this, after they’ve been identified.
Howard Quayle 21:27
Right, I think I’ll go straight over to Dr. urut. on that. So to provide that information in detail.
Henrietta Ewart 21:32
Yes, I’ve already said that there is no known link between those two cases, they’re not in the same household, and we can’t find a link in time and place between them.
Howard Quayle 21:43
And the number of cases, I’m not sure of the exact number of cases. But I’m glad to say it wasn’t in the past where we’ve had individuals who seem to have parted around half the island. And this this case, it was a very low number of cases. Are you able to add anything to that doctor,
Henrietta Ewart 21:58
you were talking about these two cases, obviously, their contacts have been traced, and where appropriate tested. And that includes household contacts and contacts. Beyond the household, I can’t give you the number off the top of my head. But I can say that we’ve all the test results back and they’ve all been negative.
Unknown Speaker 22:20
We’re talking dozens of people. If you
Henrietta Ewart 22:23
know, actually, in both cases, these were positive cases that did not have huge networks of close contacts. They haven’t been out partying or inviting lots of people into their homes, or what have you. So compared to some of our previous cases, there were fewer close contacts to test. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 22:48
Thank you. You finished with your time?
Unknown Speaker 22:51
Yes, yeah. Yeah.
Tim Glover 22:52
I’m just thinking that as you said, Yes. The the circumstances now from early January have changed, largely because we have lots of vulnerable people and elderly people vaccinated. And I’m wondering in terms of what Mr. Archer said about proportionality, as we go along with more and more people being vaccinated, the risk of a serious outbreak affecting a lot of people diminishes. And I wonder how much of that is taken into consideration when the Council of Ministers is discussing these sorts of things?
Unknown Speaker 23:25
In other words,
Tim Glover 23:25
why don’t we might we have had a different result today, if there’s too much two months ago?
Howard Quayle 23:30
No, I think at this moment in time, the council of ministers are looking at elimination of the virus on the island whilst our vaccination programme rolls out. Now, when we get to the end of April, beginning of May or dependent on the amount of vaccines, the extra vaccines that we get, which the Health Minister has just discussed, it may well be that, you know, we will alter our thinking on that. Obviously, once you’ve got all that bracket protected, then you can start to look at instead of eliminating the virus from the island of living with the virus on the island, because obviously you’ve protected all your key people. So going forward in a couple of months time, I’m sure we will be taking into account the fact that we’ve vaccine significantly vaccinated a large number of people. But when we came to our conclusion today, we didn’t take any bearing on the fact that we had already done a good number of our first two groups. Thank you very much, Richard. Now we’ll move on to Josh Stokes from ITV. Granada. Good afternoon, Josh fastway.
Josh Stokes 24:36
Afternoon Chief Minister, has been mentioned but not made totally clear here. What is the precautionary planning now if more unexplained cases start to emerge in the community. And what will it take now for the government to legally impose any sort of circuit breaker lockdown does still come down to the number of unexplained cases?
Howard Quayle 24:53
Well, it’ll come down I suppose to the number and the severity of the situation is the really the There’s no cast iron set of rules are no, you get three and we’re definitely gonna do x. It will be a not a lot of it will be based on the advice of our of our Director of Public Health, for example, for example. So with that I’ll bring in our Director of Public Health to expand on that.
Henrietta Ewart 25:17
Frankie Chief Minister, yes, obviously, unexplained cases are the major indicator of concern. So if we start to see more of those, then we will become more concerned. And we will use our response levels in the document that’s published on the website as an indicator of how we might then ramp up response levels. But as the chief minister said, the hard numbers are not the only driver of response. It depends on the nature of the cases, and whether they truly are unexplained and widely disseminated in time and place, which would give us huge cause for concern, or whether they are actually not unexplained after we’ve completed contact tracing and doing fat forecasters with clear lines of transmission, which we would hope to contain by addressing those. Thank you. Okay.
Howard Quayle 26:15
Thanks. And your next one, Rob.
Josh Stokes 26:17
Thank you, Chief Minister. Second question, going back to the steam packet company investigation. Can we be totally clear here? Were any laws broken over the last 11 months and from what crew members should have been doing within their direction notice, because that surely is crucial. Different people have been sent to jail for COVID breaches?
Howard Quayle 26:34
Yeah, well, we, as I say, as politicians were assured that the the crew had to you if you look at the wording that they had to quarantine when they came off the ship, if they were when they were working on the ship, the steam packet felt that no, the wording was purely that it should only be for the off Island crew that were working when they came on to the island. At this moment in time, I don’t think there are any criminal procedure or prosecutions going ahead on this. It’s been a genuine misunderstanding of the interpretation of the direction notice. And we’re happy to move forward. Now we think we’ve found a solution which reduces the risk to people off the island by the vaccination and the weekly testing of all staff. When they come back to the island.
Josh Stokes 27:26
And this review this investigation, will it be put into any kind of documentation or made public at all?
Howard Quayle 27:31
I’d have to speak to the Chief Secretary on that, as I say we’ve not really found any criminal wrongdoing. It was a genuine misunderstanding of the situation. We’ve now worked out a path forward to protect the island to the best of our abilities, which I think Dr. You mentioned, just just now so that’s, you know, I’m happy to leave it at that. I’m misunderstandings can happen. What was the well, in a pandemic, where nobody was prepared? No one, you know, for this sort of outbreak where we’re living, living it and finding out new information as we go along? Yes, we thought the rules were clear. But no one intentionally broke the rules. It was a genuine misunderstanding of what they felt their direction notice was we’ve clarified it, we’ve changed it slightly to to help going forward. At the end of the day, we need the cargo etc, coming over and people coming over on our boats. And that’s the reality that we live in. So I don’t see any prosecutions going forward at this stage. Josh. Right. Next we have Rob Pritchard from three FM Good afternoon, Rob faster. My pastor, my
Unknown Speaker 28:39
chief minister, you say the two cases remain unexplained. You said that earlier today. And then you’ve also referred to the asking the public to be ready for something like a potential circuit breaker lockdown in case we needed it. So why do you think it’s the best course of action? But you’re you’re telling people today to go about their business as normal, given the situation still seems pretty precarious.
Howard Quayle 29:01
Well, off the two people that had unexplained COVID-19, we have tested all their all the high risk people that they were in contact with going back the 48 hours or more. Previous to them term testing positive for COVID-19 on all those people have come back as negative. So all those people are in quarantine, they’ve tested negative, which means they haven’t been spreading the virus onto people even if they go on to develop it in the coming days. And therefore, that to the best of our knowledge and with no one else coming forward with COVID. From those two cases, we feel that we can carry on as normal, but we are saying heightened vigilance for everyone really, as a result, it’s a call based on the risk and the evidence that we have to date, no more cases, the cases have to pay off the test on the people that surrounded these two people have come back as negative and therefore we can’t go through trotting down the island. Every time we have the, you know, the odd case of this happening, we have to be proportionate. We’ve got the evidence. And based on that, we’ve decided that for the time being, we don’t need to lock down. That’s not saying that sadly, in two, three days time, there might have been someone who’s symptom who’s asymptomatic. And they’ve passed it on to so there’s just no evidence at this moment in time. But David, and then Dr. Huge if you want to expand on that,
David Ashford 30:26
yes, thank you, Chief Minister, if I may, Rob. This is in line with the protocols that we’ve had throughout the pandemic period, people can go online, they can look at the government documents that explain how we deal with different situations as they emerge, and the different levels and the different steps that we would take. Those are still relevant, they are still in force, in relation to to unexplained cases. While it is a concern, because anything that is unexplained is a concern. We do have to accept when dealing with a virus, these will happen from time to time, due to asymptomatic people potentially being in the chain of transmission, what is important is to try and control that and spread and prevent onward transmission. We believe at the moment as confidently as we can at any given point that we may well have done that time will tell, but we don’t believe at the moment that it is necessary to start moving to other mitigation measures, which will, which would actually have impact on the wider community. There is always a risk, there is always a residual risk with anything we do. But we believe at the moment that there is no need to go forward with any further measures at this time, as the chief minister said, that may change if further evidence emerges. But we don’t have the base of evidence that would require us to do a circuit break lockdown at this current time. And I went through just before why this is very different to the situation we found ourselves in in January, and I’ll hand over to Director of Public Health.
Henrietta Ewart 31:54
Thank you. I don’t really have anything to add to that. I think that’s all been covered very clearly. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 32:00
Unknown Speaker 32:01
Thank you. Second question. Just on the subject of going about business as usual, schools are opening as normal tomorrow, but naturally, parents and carers could be extremely nervous about sending the children’s score given the circumstances, what would your advice be to them?
Howard Quayle 32:16
Well, obviously we’ve we’ve just heard that were as reasonably confident as we can be that it’s perfectly safe to do so with there’s been no cases that have come forward from the contents of these two people. And and therefore the people that they were around during the two days beforehand, have not been shedding the illness to to any other people around the community. So obviously, if that situation changes, then we will of course instantly advise the people I know the Minister for Education sport and culture has been speaking to all the head teachers today to discuss going forward but it’s you know, there’s there’s no guarantees in life but we’ve taken good steps we’ve been quick off the mark to test and isolate the the two people and people should carry on with their with their lives as normal. And obviously the risks to younger people in comparison, say to your your mother or your father are significantly less. Thanks very much, Rob. Okay, now we move on to Tim Glover of Manx radio. Good afternoon, Tim foster my
Tim Glover 33:20
law degree as SUNY did, I think is the Manx greeting appropriate for today, Chief Minister. Thank you. I’m just following on from Rob really, in the schools, we’ve had a lot of parents being in touch. school attendance and lead to believe last week even was a lot lower than it should be. About 75% appeal, for example, and we’ve got a message in here. I won’t be sending my little boy in this week. And this lady is clinically vulnerable. And I’m sure there’ll be a lot of worried parents like Michelle. So is it okay to keep children off? And will it be online revision of some form?
Howard Quayle 34:01
Well, it’s the we’re not saying it’s optional. We’re saying schools are open as normal, it’s back to business as normal. So know, if if your child has a health problem, or is showing any signs of warm warm up of COVID-19. Then of course, keep them off school and ring 111. But no one should be business as us I’m not aware of a 75 only 75% of children at across our schools. Tim, that’s not the evidence i’ve i’ve had from the education minister, I’ve been led to believe it was business as usual. But I don’t know of David, have you heard anything or doctor you heard?
David Ashford 34:36
No Chief Minister, as far as I’m aware from the Department of Education, the figures have been quite high and normal for school attendance. The one thing I would add, Tim is at this moment, we have no concerns around school settings. children’s education is very, very important. Even during this pandemic period. We only have to look across the water to the UK to see the severe disruption that has happened. to children. And also I would say, actually, the mental health issues that come with children being separated from their school environment as well. And that their networks should we say out there socially, we would only take decisions on school if we felt we had the appropriate evidence to do so. We don’t have concerns in that area. I know there will be a lot of people frightened and concerned out there, particularly those who might have vulnerable children or be vulnerable themselves. That’s perfectly natural. All we can do is act on the evidence we have in front of us. And the evidence we have in front of us is that we believe it is perfectly safe environment of people to be sending their children into tomorrow. And we would urge parents to send their children to school as normal.
Howard Quayle 35:43
Dr. year do you want to add anything to that?
Henrietta Ewart 35:45
Nothing to add, other than to fully endorse what minister has just said.
Howard Quayle 35:50
Okay, thank you very much, Tim, your next question? Yes,
Tim Glover 35:55
this is to the health minister, if I can. You gave a really good explanation there of further differences between now and the situation we’re in with in January. But we now know we’ve got the camp variants. We know that that is much more transmissible. You mentioned that face coverings and PP would be an evidence the hospital, there is some uncertainty. Clearly here, the message here is a competence as you can be. But you’ve also prepared people to maybe a very short notice lockdown. So wouldn’t it be a good idea to advise people to wear face coverings themselves still,
David Ashford 36:32
not at the moment, Tim, but let’s remember that what we’re doing in a healthcare setting is generally around medical grade PPA, plus the fact that on the island, unlike the UK, we have one hospital, if we did, for whatever reason have a widespread outbreak in the hospital, that would put our health service in jeopardy. We’re not saying we believe that that risk is there, we believe it is a sensible precaution to have. And the reason I’ve put that out publicly today is so that people aren’t unduly worried if they go to the hospital, and they see people wandering around in medical grade PPA more than they would under normal circumstances, it’s a sensible thing to have over the next 10 days or so, while we assess the situation. But it doesn’t show any evidence different to what we’ve said here today. At the moment in relation to face coverings in public, there will be people who will feel a lot more comfortable. I have to unfortunately do my weekly shopping trip to tescos this morning. Because my family does insist on continuing to eat. And there were people in there that were wearing face coverings. So there will be people who will find a lot more comfortable. If people wish to wear them. We’re not saying don’t. But what we’re saying is there is we are not recommending at this time because we don’t believe the evidence is there that they need to. But if it makes them feel more comfortable in public, they should wear them and they should be respected for that.
Howard Quayle 37:55
Okay, thank you very much, Tim. Now we move on to Alex Bell from BBC Isle of Man. Good afternoon, Alex, first of all,
Alex Bell 38:02
thank you. I’d just like to revisit the steam packet situation, please, Chief Minister, you’ve called it several times are a genuine misunderstanding. And I know you’ve said you’re happy to leave it at that. But there has to be some accountability here. I’m sure you’ll agree if the rules haven’t been made clear enough. And it’s led to a cluster of cases which we’re still dealing with. If no one from the steam packet breach the rules, what action is going to be taken against those in government who failed to make the rules clear enough?
Howard Quayle 38:31
Well, it’s there’s no class both there’s no clear black and black and white on this Alex, which is what you’re trying to get me to say. We felt it was clear. The steam package genuinely felt though they were complying to what they thought were the rules. This This isn’t a case of we’ve had been living with COVID for the last 10 years, and therefore everyone should know exactly what they should be doing on their rules and regulations. This is the first time we’ve had it. Okay, we’ve been living with it now for nearly a year. But the steam packet have interpreted at one way our team interpreted the other way. At no time. Was there any criminal negligence, it was just a genuine misunderstanding. And if we prosecute anyone for a genuine misunderstanding, then where do we end? So I’m happy to to draw a line on drip because now we are testing the steam package every week. And they are you know, being reassured that the full PPA will be maintained and whilst on the ship. That has to be the way forward. Obviously, I’ve asked to make sure that all the rules and regulations when we send out direction notices to businesses are are complied with. And there are lessons to be learned from this but I don’t intend to have any witch hunts against either side. Really.
Alex Bell 39:53
Mr. quayle rules have to be black and white. If there’s rules which are broken, they cannot be open to anything. deputation
Howard Quayle 40:02
Yeah. And as I say that the steam packet fully followed the rules for their English cruise, it was just a, a miscommunication or they’re not understanding how the rules from our side have been written that the Manx crews had to do the same. So I’ve taken advice on whether there is any prosecution that can be made on this, the answer is no one and I’m more than happy to move forward on that.
Alex Bell 40:26
So there’s going to be no further action,
Howard Quayle 40:28
not on less some evidence comes up that blows a hole in that then into the evidence that we’ve received today, then there’ll be no further action.
Alex Bell 40:38
Okay, and to move on then. And I think there is still some leftover frustration among businesses on the island, about this freedom that they were given to choose whether they should close up yesterday or not. Many places, I think, possibly even a majority of places closed, doing what they perceived and were told would be the right thing to do close the doors. Some places were busy last night, some were busy this morning. Can you give business owners any assurance that if we find ourselves in this situation, again, where there are known unknowns about cases, they won’t have to make those decisions again?
Howard Quayle 41:14
Well, I can’t Alex, I mean, because at short notice, we may have to make a quick decision on this, we were faced with the reality that yesterday, there were a number of cases that we we couldn’t explain where they’d come from, we were testing their high risk contacts. Now, if we hadn’t have asked people to stay at home, we could have been in a situation where we’d woke up this morning, and we had 30 cases, say, of COVID-19. I’m delighted that that’s not the situation and that all the high risks. People have the two contacts have come back as negative, that is really good news. But we couldn’t take any chances. And therefore we had to do this as quickly as possible. We do have financial support out there. The business support ad runs out at the end of this month, but it’s still there for businesses, and the Treasury Minister and the economic policy review team will monitor this going forward to see if there is a need to come up with a scheme to help business but at this moment in time, the the support is there for businesses if they are adversely impacted by the results of of COVID. But of course we will, we will take this on board. But you can’t say we’re not going to do and put the Ireland at risk just because, you know, sad as it may be that some parties have to be cancelled. But I don’t know, David, if you want to expand on that, yeah,
David Ashford 42:34
if I could just on one angle, in order to mandate the closure acts we would have had to bring in law to do so. We can’t just mandate a closure, we have to bring in regulations, which would be under the Public Health Act 1990. In order to do that, with the time of day, it was by the time we had actually managed to do we had gone through everything that we knew that correct position. With the testing results back, it would not have been practical to have those regulations drafted and enforced by last night. So if we had stood at the podium here yesterday afternoon, and actually mandated places to close, that would have been very disingenuous of us, because we wouldn’t have had the regulations in place to be able to back that up. And I think we made the correct decision in advising places to close. My understanding is that the overwhelming majority of places follow that advice. I believe most of the Manx public, were very responsible as well last night and stayed at home for that for the period of last night. But also I think, you know, if we had, by some miracle managed to bring forward regulations in a very short period, and mandated everywhere to close, we’d probably have been having a very different discussion today, where we’d have been questioned, did you go over the top m&a closure compared to what you’ve been able to announce this afternoon?
Howard Quayle 43:51
Thank you Please worth pointing out also, Alex that whilst it was most regrettable that we had to do this yesterday, it was in the best interest of of all of the island. And our businesses have the massive advantage of their UK counterparts that they’ve had nearly eight months of uninterrupted business on on the island parking, our self catering, accommodation and hotels, etc, who are getting, you know, extra business support for that. So, of course, we don’t want to make a habit of doing this sort of thing. But when a situation arises, which Council of Ministers was was faced on Saturday, it seemed the best thing to do. And as I say, the business interruption scheme is still there. And if I’m sure if any business comes to the Treasury minister and can prove they’ve had significant losses on that equates across the month of February, then they will get a favourable response. Thank you very much, Alex. Now we’ll move on to Simon Richardson from business 365. Good afternoon, Simon Foster. My
Simon Richardson 44:51
Good afternoon, Chief Minister. If I could put you that the court of public opinion as a politician and I’m sure you know, can be rather fickle up until very recently had massive support of the government’s handling of the crisis. Now the steam packet saga does seem to have dented confidence a little. Are you happy that you have the overwhelming support of people at this point in time? I mean, given the choice yesterday of stay home or go out and party, it seems, according to the police, at least that many chose the latter last night.
Howard Quayle 45:26
Well, that’s because we asked, there was no legal enforcement of those rules. I’m sure if there had been legal enforcement, then those people that don’t respect being asked not to have a party would have to comply by the rules. I think, you know, we’ve, from the messages of support I get, we still have the vast majority of the public supporting this administration, let’s forget, we are still not in lockdown. We’ve managed nearly eight months compared with the UK in the last 12 months compared to the UK, we’ve been in virtual lockdown give our takes various windows of some form for the last 12 months. So the people of the Isle of Man have been in a very fortunate position. And that’s because we’ve all worked together as a team. I believe the support is still there. But I always do what’s right for the island, not necessarily what’s gonna make me popular anyway, it’s what’s right for the island with all the best evidence that we have at our disposal.
Simon Richardson 46:23
Thank you, and certainly for the health minister, obviously could use that more vaccine is going to be arriving hopefully in the next few weeks. And you said that you would ramp up a vaccination programme accordingly. could that mean that we would have seven days a week in the main hubs if there is sufficient vaccine,
David Ashford 46:43
and there will actually be certain weeks where that will happen side and where we will have to ramp the hubs up to seven days a week in order to deliver the volume. March is one of the pivotal months in the vaccination programme. I like to say we’re in the early days, the vaccination programme. I think I explained that in the briefing, but it’s been a long time since then. So it’s probably worth repeating. Again, that March is where we start seeing the high levels of delivery coming through. And that is still the case, there’s now potentially additional deliveries on top. So in all in certain weeks, we will have to go to seven days a week. And we have staffed up accordingly. We plan since the very beginning for that to happen. And what we’ve done previously is in order to be efficient, we’ve managed to get the hubs to three days of high efficiency with people flowing through. That doesn’t mean we’ve delivered any less vaccine. It just means we’ve done what are the same amount of vaccine that would have been spread over seven days in three. But certainly in forthcoming weeks, people will see the hubs operating seven days a week in certain weeks due to the level of vaccines coming into the island. And again, that’s a good news story.
Simon Richardson 47:49
Thank you very much.
Howard Quayle 47:50
Okay. Well, thank you all very much for those questions. Next week, we hope to be sharing our longer term plan for exiting measures. I had wanted to publish this last week, but we’ve had to pause whilst we’re dealt with the most recent developments. Thank you to everyone out there for everything that you are doing. Please continue to make the right decisions for you, your family and our Ireland. Every action makes a difference. Help us to protect the health service and the most vulnerable members of our community. Your actions are helping protect our island. You can do this by remembering the basics. And if you have the slightest concern about any COVID like symptoms, then please call 111 as soon as possible. Now finally, turning on the birthday theme, I would like to give a shout out to William Mikan, who has eight. William’s birthday party had to be postponed yesterday for the second time. I’m really sorry about this William Happy birthday. And I hope your parents are able to rearrange your party and that you have a great time. That’s all for now. Thank you. Bye bye