This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government Press Conference conducted on Sunday 3rd January 2021.
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 morning everyone and thank you for watching and listening. Happy New Year. Today I am joined by the Minister for Health and Social Care David Ashford and our Director of Public Health, Dr. Henrietta Ewart. On New Year’s Eve, the government announced that two people had tested positive for COVID-19. Now what made these positive results unusual was they came after the two individuals had completed a 14 day period of isolation because they had travelled to the island. The news has caused some concern in our community, which is completely understandable. risk in managing our response to any pandemic is that the public become complacent or worse, indifferent. It is both encouraging and reassuring to see that our community remains vigilant and engaged in our efforts to keep the island COVID. Three. Thank you. Before I go into detail, I want to make it clear that the two individuals who tested positive followed all the rules and have done all that has been asked of them. Upon arrival onto the island, they self isolated as required, and did so for the specified period. There has been a great deal of speculation over the past two days about these two cases, especially on social media. For these two individuals, I am sure it is not easy. When the local community is discussing your actions and movements, understandably, though it is. Both individuals are of course self isolating, again, because of their positive test results. And I’m sure you will all join me in wishing them well, and in thanking them for being responsible and following the rules. What I want to do this morning is to talk to you about three things. The first is to go over exactly what has happened. The second is to explain our response. And the third is to detail what happens next. Before I go on to this, I want to reassure you that this briefing is not building up to bad news. On Saturday and Sunday, we received 398 test results. Many of these were from people who had come forward as a result of our announcement on New Year’s Eve. I am pleased to advise you that all 398 test results have come back as negative. As of last night, all swabs have been processed and test results reported. There will of course be more swabbing today and tomorrow. These results do not mean that we can say that there has been no community transmission. But I’m sure you will agree that the results in such a significant number are an encouraging sign. So then, let me set out exactly what has happened. The two individuals who tested positive arrived on the Isle of Man accompanied by another person on Thursday, the 10th of December. All three began the required 14 day period of self isolation and shared accommodation. Having displayed no symptoms of the virus. The self isolation period ended at noon on Wednesday the 23rd of December, and all three individuals were free to go about their business. On Wednesday, the 30th of December, one of the individuals called the COVID 111 service to report that they had COVID like symptoms. They were told to self isolate, and were booked in for a test. That test result came back the next day New Year’s Eve and was found to be positive, the individual was required to self isolate, and the contact tracing process began. Eight close contacts were initially identified. As a reminder how close contact is someone who is at a high risk of exposure to the virus and therefore more likely to capture it. Like many countries we have used the guidance set out by the European Centre for disease prevention and control. The ecdc definition of close contact covers a number of different scenarios such as face to face contact for 15 minutes or longer at a distance of less than two metres apart, or people who live together. For example, all eight individuals were quickly contacted and served direction notices to self isolate, and were offered tests of which all availed themselves. The 111 team the swabbing team and the team in the in the lab at nobles hospital, pulled out all the stops to get the swabs taken. And the tests processed that same day for which I genuinely thank them very much for their hard work. Seven of the tests came back negative and one came back positive Although that individual had no symptoms of the virus, or continue in self isolation regardless,
Howard Quayle 5:08
the contact tracing process identified a number of locations that the two individuals who tested positive had visited between their initial period of self isolation, ending on Wednesday the 23rd of December, and then being required to self isolate again. The locations dates and times of the visits the public need to be aware of, were as follows a cafe on Duke street in Douglas on Wednesday the 23rd of December between 12:30pm and 1:10pm. Also on Wednesday, the 23rd the terrorists, chippy on prospect Harrison Douglas, between 7:40pm and 8:40pm. On Thursday the 24th of December the majestic Chinese restaurant on central promenade in Douglas between 7:30pm and 8:30pm. And on Saturday, the 26th of December, the 1886 bar grill and cocktail lounge on Regent Street in Douglas between 11pm and 2am. The next morning, on New Year’s Day, the details of to further locations were released the casino at the best West Western Palace Hotel on central promenade and Douglas on Thursday, the 24th of December between 9pm and 10pm. And again on Monday, the 28th of December between 8:15pm and 9:45pm. And finally on Tuesday the 29th of December, Robinson’s on cool road and Brandon between 1pm and 3pm. We identified only one close or high risk contact from these venues, taking the total time. They are self isolating, and I’m pleased to say have tested negative for the virus. If you’re at these locations on the dates and at the times I’ve stated you are at low risk. This includes staff. However, if you have any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 now or in the coming days, then please self isolate and contact the COVID 111 service to notify them to get advice and to arrange for a test should you want one. If you are there but have no signs or symptoms, you do not need to be tested because the risk is low. This is fully in line with best practice and guidance. And as the recommended course of action by public health. You can of course call the COVID 111 service for advice and reassurance. Because the risk is deemed to be low, there has been no need to direct the premises we have identified to close the risk to the public and go into any of these venues is minimal, and they are free to remain open and trading. If they wish to close temporarily, or to undertake additional cleaning, as some have chosen to do, then that is a matter for those businesses and organisations. But I must reiterate the risk is low and that their actions are not as a result of public health advice. Dr. Ewart Would you like to say a word a little bit more now on low and high risk contacts the risk to these venues and the protocols we have put in place.
Henrietta Ewart 8:20
Thank you, Chief Minister. As the chief minister has said we follow evidence based best practice guidance and protocols from the European Centre for disease prevention and control as the basis for our local responses. However, we are always conscious that we are working to maintain local elimination of COVID-19 here on Island in a situation where we have no social distancing, or other related measures in place to slow or contain spread should a case be present in the community. For that reason we liaise closely with the public health team in Guernsey, which also has a local elimination strategy to discuss and share approaches and learn from any incidents requiring case or cluster management. We also review policies and protocols from other countries following a local elimination approach, notably New Zealand. It’s important to stress that we do not currently have any clusters, which means two or more cases associated with any of the venues visited by the cases. The cluster we have is two individuals from the same household with a clear link to travel. The process of contact tracing involves taking a detailed history from the positive cases to understand with whom and where they’ve been over the relevant time period before the onset of symptoms or the positive test results. It also includes understanding the behaviour of the individual at the places they visited. This is important because by far the main method of spread of COVID-19 is person to person interaction and transfer of droplets from the nose and mouth. We know that crowded venues, particularly those that are noisy, and where people need to shout to be heard, do facilitate the spread of COVID-19. And such venues have been associated with super spread or events or outbreaks. However, if a case is in such a venue, but the infected person remains within their own group, and does not mix, mix and mingle with others, then the risk to others in the venue will be lower. We have not identified any further cases associated with the venues. The incubation period for COVID-19. That’s the time between being exposed infected and developing symptoms is between two and 14 days. And the average times time for symptoms to appear is five days. It is possible for people to be infected and either remain symptom three three throughout, or to have only mild symptoms that they do not recognise or report as COVID-19. However, only about a third of cases are thought to remain asymptomatic. That means that in our present situation, because of the time that has elapsed since the cases visited the venues, we would expect to have seen people experience symptoms. And as we continue to encourage, they should have been contacting COVID 111 for assessment and testing. Prior to the announcement on New Year’s Eve, we have not seen that happen, which again supports a low risk of transmission in those at the venue beyond the cases immediate groups. In terms of the venues themselves, the risk of wider environmental contamination and infection from surfaces is low. The government COVID-19 website provides guidance for businesses on environmental hygiene and cleaning. Although traces of virus particles can be identified on surfaces through specialists laboratory testing for variable periods after contamination. In practice, the likelihood of any viable virus persisting falls to very low levels after 72 hours. Good regular and routine cleaning practices mitigate that risk even further. This and the time that has passed since the cases visited the venues means that we would not advise closure of any of the venues. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 12:33
And thank you very much, Henrietta. And I would like to make a point here on the timing of our announcement on the New Year’s on New Year’s Eve. As I’ve said our team worked quickly that day to identify potentially affected close contacts to get them swapped and their tests processed and to identify locations visited. Before making an announcement, we needed to make sure we had all the facts that we had informed people of their results, and that we had contacted all of the affected businesses, by telephone or in person whose details were going to be released to the public. It was late into the evening, by the time all of this work had been completed. But we did not want to delay any announcement. So as soon as everything was in place, the announcements was made at 11:45pm on New Year’s Eve. Needless to say it was far from the sort of New Year’s message the government would have liked to have issued. Some people thought the timing peculiar. I have even seen comments suggesting suggesting that it all been scheduled hours earlier. I can assure you that this was not the case. People were very much working on the issue up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. The timing was unusual. But the decision was made not to hold the announcement over until the next day, despite the lateness of the hour. I firmly believe that issuing the information as soon as we were able to was the right decision. And I stand by this. I have always set out to be open and honest with you and to share information as soon as possible. As well as our hope word spread quickly that night. And it means we could immediately begin arranging swabs from 8am on New Year’s Day. I am ever conscious that many of our critical public services run 24 hours a day seven days a week, 365 days a year. Nonetheless, a considerable number of people worked late into the night on New Year’s Eve and again on New Year’s Day at short notice and without complaint, getting on and doing what needed to be done just as countless others have done throughout this pandemic. My thanks to everyone involved. I would like to touch upon something that I know caused some confusion on Friday and Saturday. Our message on New Year’s Eve was clear and in line with public health guidance and protocols. If you were up the venue We identified the dates and times specified, your risk of contact contracting COVID-19 was low. This meant that we could only offer tests to those who were there and felt they had COVID like symptoms. Many people who are at these venues on the dates and times we specified, particularly those that 1886 contacted the COVID 111 service, despite having no symptoms. The level of response reflects the sense of responsibility and duty that has been evident in our community throughout this pandemic. And of course, despite having no symptoms, these individuals were understandably concerned ama seeking reassurance and advice, which the team of the COVID 111 service were all too happy to provide. Now, given the volume of people who came forward, but who did not have symptoms, as decision was made on Saturday to offer some of these individuals a test and to use the data for what is termed viral surveillance. As these individuals have no symptoms, they did not have to self isolate, despite having a test. Many of the people who contacted 111, we’re sharing their experiences on social media. And the fact that some people without symptoms were being offered tests, whilst others were not quickly came to light. The fact that some people were told to self isolate, that is those who were tested because they had symptoms, and some were told they did not need to self isolate, that is those that had no symptoms and was simply offered a test for surveillance purposes. This also came to light I fully appreciate that this inconsistency and approach cause confusion and concern, it is something we will learn from, as we have done throughout this pandemic. Doctor you What would you like to say a little bit more on the decision that was taken to use this as an opportunity to carry out some surveillance and the benefits this brings not just here on the Isle of Man, but in the global fight against the pandemic, Henrietta. Thank
Henrietta Ewart 17:04
you, Chief Minister. The time has passed since the cases visited the venues means that if anyone had been infected, the majority would be shedding the virus and return a positive test. By the time we were able to offer testing from Friday onwards. This would include both symptomatic and asymptomatic people. Where we identify settings that are known to be associated with enhanced transmission of COVID-19. We always want to ensure we have widened our case finding procedures to maximise the chance of identifying any further spread. That is why the case review team decided to widen testing to include a sample of asymptomatic people who had called COVID 111 on Friday. It’s important to understand the difference in approach to people with symptoms, as opposed to those without people with symptoms and a history of exposure even as a low risk contact are much more likely to be cases who will go on to have a positive test. This means that they are advised to self isolate immediately and await the test result. They will then be advised about continuation of self isolation, and offered further testing to confirm they are not infected before release from self isolation. For asymptomatic people linked to a setting of interest, the chances of infection are very much lower. The surveillance sampling is simply a means of getting a snapshot of infection levels at a particular point in time, and maximising the likelihood of picking up any further cases, if they are present. The negative test results on these individuals does not prove that they are not infected, they may still go on to develop symptoms up to 14 days after exposure. They need to remain vigilant for symptoms and report any to COVID one on one immediately. In the meantime, they remain low risk contacts, and they do not need to self isolate. The surveillance sampling for case finding that we did here is not the same as mass testing of whole populations. That has been used as a method of suppressing infection rates in areas where these have been very high. I won’t go into the details on this. But there is still considerable debate as to the usefulness of the mass testing approach. Mass population testing is not indicated in areas with very low or no community transmission. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 19:38
And thank you very much, Henrietta. Now whilst the confusion caused is regrettable, I hope you can see that it was done with the very best of intentions. And my thanks go to those who despite having no symptoms took up the offer of a test for the small surveillance study. One of the points I would like to make is around the volume of people awaiting test results which attract To some attention yesterday, this figure has been steadily increasing, but it is not by and large related to people coming forward from these venues that we have identified. Our new day one and day 15 testing regime for people travelling to the island began on the 23rd of December. When a person is booked in for the test what for the for the day one test, they are booked in for their day 15 tests at the same time. These are therefore included in the figures for people waiting a test. Even though that test may not be due for a fortnight, we will not have our first day 15 tests until this coming Tuesday, which is why the number has been creeping up. We continue to have good testing capacity, and are seeing a good throughput in our testing system. Now, I appreciate we have talked at some length fair, but I felt it was important to fully explain the circumstances of what has happened. I would now like to turn to the second point, explaining a little more about our response to these two cases, and why we have taken the approach we have. I said earlier that we use the guidance issued by the European Centre for disease prevention and control to plan our response to clusters and outbreaks. Our approach in the past few days has been adhered to this guidance, and also what they do in New Zealand, another country with a strategy of maintaining local elimination of COVID-19. We have worked to develop our plans on how to manage clusters and outbreaks. And these have served as well. That is reflected in our COVID free status. Our plans and EDC guidance is based on risk and proportionality. What we have at the moment is a household cluster of two cases clearly related to each other and associated with travel. We have no clusters, two or more cases associated with any of the venues visited by either case. If we were to identify any cases and people who have been at one or more of the venues, then we would move quickly to implement additional targeted measures as set out in our outbreak plan, such as wider testing and self isolation of those present and the closure of specific premises. If indicated. We would also begin to consider wider measures measures such as the reintroduction of social distancing, and asking people to wear face masks. Dr. Ewart, perhaps you could say a little more on how we deal with clusters and outbreaks and how they differ.
Henrietta Ewart 22:35
Thank you, Chief Minister. A cluster is defined as two or more cases of a disease in this case COVID-19 that are related in time and place. So to reiterate what we’ve said earlier in the current situation, we have one household cluster of two cases and a clear association with travel. We do not have any clusters that indicate wider spread through any of the venues. an outbreak is really just the continuation of a cluster so that you get wider numbers. And then the third version or third scenario is community transmission, where we have a number of cases that do not show the feature of association across time and place. So we developed some time ago a COVID outbreak response plan, which has been published on the website and provides guidance for all government departments, businesses and so on to follow. At present, we don’t have to trigger that because we are not dealing with either a wider cluster that’s reaching into the community or indeed an outbreak. And thankfully, at this stage, no suggestion that we have a return to community transmission.
Howard Quayle 23:56
Thank you very much, Henrietta. Finally, the third point I want to cover is what happens next. It is a waiting game. We have received several 100 test results in the past few days, many of which are people who came forward haven’t been at the venues on the dates and times we announced on New Year’s Eve. As I said at the start of this briefing as of last night, all of those test results have been negative. This is encouraging, but it does not mean we are out of the woods yet. As we have said throughout this pandemic, a test is only a measure at a single point in time. If we take a swab while someone is incubating but not sharing the virus, then the results will be negative, even for those gold standard PCR tests. Because it is a point in time, a single test is no guarantee. That is why a 14 day self isolation period remains in place. Even if someone with symptoms or a close contact of someone with the virus tests negative on their initial test. This is why we introduced a day 13 test. In addition to day one tests for people travelling to the island, it gives us test results for two points in time, increasing the confidence rate as to whether someone does have the virus. This new day one and day 15 testing regime or 21 days of self isolation for those who do not, who do not wish to be tested, plus the additional restrictions and our borders and exemptions. We issue to allow non residents to travel here were put in place on the 23rd of December last year, to reduce the chances of the virus being imported. This was in response to the heightened threat from the new variants of virus and the increasing rate of transmission being seen in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, the self isolation period period following travelling to the UK from overseas remains at just 10 days. Testing will continue today and tomorrow. But given the dates that the two individuals were out and about these past few days are the point at which anyone who had caught the virus is likely to have symptoms, and the point of which testing is most likely to detect the virus. The fact we have had no positive results to date, just give us reason for cautious optimism. If the worst happens, and we do detect a case as as a result, then we will trace and test in line with our plans, and I will keep you fully updated. With that tone of optimism in the air. I’ll be at a cautious one. And before turning to the media for questions. It is only right to note that tomorrow is a big day in our battle against COVID-19. Monday will be v day in the Isle of Man. As our vaccination programme gets underway. We will begin the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine. And following the good news last week that the Oxford vaccine has also now received regulatory approval, we will receive our first supply of this in due course, the Oxford vaccine will be much easier to manage in terms of logistics, as it can be kept in a fridge temperature. Unlike the Pfizer one, which you may recall needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius and defrosted in batches of 975. I will hand over to minister Ashford who can tell you more about our plans for tomorrow. And the days and weeks ahead, David.
David Ashford 27:24
Thank you, Chief Minister, the first of all Island residents will receive their vaccination first thing tomorrow morning. Over the subsequent few days, we will deliver the first of our 975 vaccinations, and we will continue rolling out from there. The island has been receiving regular supplies of vaccination in line with our population headcount as our share of the UK vaccination load, and we will continue to do so as planned the first phase of the rollout will consist of frontline health care staff and also those within care home settings. Next week, we’ll also see us writing to those in the over 80s category, inviting them to register for their vaccination. getting to this point has been a huge logistical task from the transport of the vaccination to the storage at minus 70. And the formulation of protocols to meet the requirements of the licence agreement to use the vaccine, which ranges from everything from security storage, to even a set process on how the vials have to be disposed of after use. It has not been a simple task. So I would like to take the opportunity to thank the entire team involved in the vaccination programme for their hard work, dedication and the long hours they have been put there put in to get us to this point. Tomorrow marks a new dawn in Ireland’s battle against COVID-19. With a new weapon in our arsenal, and it should give us some renewed hope and optimism as we look forward to the year ahead of us. One other topic I just want to touch on is I know there has been some comments on social media, about people wearing masks out and about in public. Although there is no requirement to do so, or have any need to do so. For some people, it makes them feel more comfortable. I’ve said throughout this pandemic that people should take what measures are right for them. If wearing a mask makes some sections of our community feel more comfortable, then we should respect that choice, and not stigmatise it. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 29:31
Thank you very much, David. So the silver bullet is loaded the goddess copped and tomorrow we pull the trigger. I cannot think of a better start to 2021. And now two questions from the media who have been waiting patiently. And first I have is Alex Bell from BBC Isle of Man.
Alex Bell 29:49
Good morning, Mr. quayle. The morning. You mentioned communication there. I think the big issue here seems to be the time that elapsed since that announcement on New Year’s Even 11:45pm. between then and yesterday afternoon, we had what was essentially 36 hours of radio silence from government in that time. misinformation is spread businesses and care homes care homes have closed because they said they had no clear advice from the government. Oh, 111. Surely you admit more could have been done immediately following this arrangement?
Howard Quayle 30:24
Well, we put out a press announcement, the minute we were able to at quarter to midnight, and the advice was clear that it was low risk. And as a result of it being no low risk, there was no need for care homes to to shut down for businesses to shut down. We didn’t ask them to do this. This, of course, was there right if they felt the need to do that. But there wasn’t a need really to do this. At this moment in time, we wanted to make sure that when we went out with evidence, and information, we had the latest and up to data, and the teams have been working flat out to do all the testings so that we knew whether we had the problem or not. And then once we knew what the situation was, we were able to get another press release out to the people. But I think when you consider that we only found out on New Year’s Eve, that someone had tested positive. The speed with which the turnaround and advising the public, it was a matter of hours, rather than days. So I think this, I think I’d like to see all the jurisdictions that have been as quick off the mark as the island was in this situation. I don’t know, David, if there’s anything you’d like to add to that,
David Ashford 31:34
just very quickly, I relation to the care homes, I can categorically say the advice that was issued where it’s been asked for, certainly from DHS C’s point of view is that they needed to take no more additional measures. And that was quite clear advice. In terms of this press briefing, one of the things that was very important we had before we did this briefing was that we had the results from that surveillance testing back so that we did see if we had a wider issue or not, the results from the large majority of results from that surveillance testing only came back late last night, which is now allowed us to give the briefing and give a fuller picture. Because otherwise we would be standing here saying to saying to the public and saying to the media, that we didn’t know what the results of the surveillance testing was. So therefore, we didn’t know what the situation was. We can’t issue reassurance until we have those facts and figures in front of us. And like I say that most of that was late last night.
Alex Bell 32:25
Okay, what do you appreciate? And this seems to be unfortunately, a bit of a recurring theme in a vacuum of information people are very quick to speculate to to allow their fears to grow. And this is when we start seeing these ripple effects is 36 hours quick enough, do you believe?
David Ashford 32:42
I think in terms of in terms of 36 hours, I think it is the quickest we could have done it because I’d say we’ve got to wait for that surveillance testing to come through. Before we can give any form of reassurance, there were two press releases that went out. Both press releases were very, very clear in particularly saying that it was low risk. The advice on public health was that the venues didn’t need to close businesses, of course, we’ve got to make their own decision around that we can’t tell businesses what to do. And it will be also the advice was very, very clear in the press release that only those who had symptoms were required to come forward for testing. We did make the decision on Saturday to undertake some surveillance testing. But like I said, in order to hold a press briefing, and actually get reassurance to the public, or in fact, if we had found wider issues to be able to tell the public what next steps we were going to take, we needed the results of that surveillance testing, and they came through last night.
Alex Bell 33:34
Thank you. And second question, will we have any idea shortly? Do we already have any idea whether the new variants of COVID-19 have arrived on the Isle of Man?
Howard Quayle 33:45
I think we’re waiting, the tests have been sent away to Liverpool, we’re waiting for the results. I think it takes about a five day turnaround. So I’d be expecting the results Monday, Tuesday. I don’t know David Oh, Henry. So if you’ve got any further information
David Ashford 33:57
out from the Director of Public Health, and if I make,
Henrietta Ewart 33:59
yes, it will be a little later than that, Chief Minister, because the genomics laboratory has been closed over the new year period and Christmas, and will be opening tomorrow. It’s important in that regard to stress that actually knowing whether it’s a variant or not, doesn’t make any difference to the communicable disease control response. The genomics is useful from an epidemiological purpose in terms of understanding what variants we have here. So it doesn’t make any difference to the response that we have had and are continuing to have. But obviously, it will be a thing of interest to know when we do know that which will be end of the week at the earliest.
Howard Quayle 34:43
Thank you very much, Alex. Now we move on to Sam Turton from Jeff the mongoose. Good morning, Sam Mara, my
Unknown Speaker 34:50
Sam Turton 34:51
chief minister, so we could ask you said there’s a large number of people contacted the one on one service having been at the venues but not had symptoms? Do you know how many people did have symptoms and then contacted one more more?
Howard Quayle 35:05
I’m not aware of that detail. I don’t know if Henrietta, if you have that Nami
Henrietta Ewart 35:09
will have that breakdown. But I don’t have it to hand.
Howard Quayle 35:12
Right. Happy to put that out. Or I’ll give you that at the next briefing.
Sam Turton 35:19
Thank you. Secondly, given that we’ve had an instance where somebody has got to 14 days and then tested positive was consideration given to people who have contacted one woman this week to have two tests, particularly Princeton’s those who may work in the health sector and will have been out celebrating over Christmas. And
Henrietta Ewart 35:39
I’m not sure why you think the time costs for the individual makes a difference there. There are various scenarios that may explain why they presented at some distance in time from the end of self isolation. But in terms of the follow up of contacts, the same protocols would apply, as they always do in terms of identifying close contacts and low risk contacts, and advising accordingly, as we’ve previously outlined this morning. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 36:12
Thanks very much, Sam. Next, we have Rob Pritchard from three FM. Mara, my Rob. Good morning, Chief
Rob Pritchard 36:17
Minister. First of all, you said that it’s still a waiting game with regards to getting a clear picture of this scenario, the situation we’ve seen over the last few days, do you have even a rough estimate of how long it will take before you’ll have a completely accurate picture of what the situation is?
Howard Quayle 36:36
Well, I think the evidence shows that the majority of people if they were going to be infected with COVID, from these two individuals would have seen symptoms by now. And the tests would have picked it up. That said there are will be there will be a number of days before that time is up for the other people who don’t under that term, the majority. So I don’t know, Henrietta, if you’d like to give a detailed answer.
Henrietta Ewart 36:59
Yes, I mean, the incubation period is 14 days. So once we get beyond 14 days with no further cases, and certainly once we’ve got any further on, then that the likelihood of anything being out there falls away. The only thing I can say about that, that one can never entirely guarantee or failsafe against, is if there are any individuals who choose not to come forward, even though they develop symptoms, or who breach isolation, or any of the other potential scenarios around that. And those scenarios exist around all attempts to control spread, whether it’s from returning travellers, or from the current scenario we’re looking at. So we can’t give a complete guarantee that we’ve got it 100% under control ever, and that’s always going to be the case. But clearly, we continue to encourage anybody who develop symptoms, whether or not they’ve travelled whether or not they’ve been at one of these venues to come forward for testing. So that’s our way of keeping tabs on what’s going on in the community. And obviously, if at any point, we receive a positive test in someone who has no history that explains where they were exposed, then that would cause us to take a watch much wider community response, but we’re certainly not thankfully at that point yet.
Rob Pritchard 38:24
Thank you. My second question, just with regards to this virus surveillance testing, particularly of those 1886. There were obviously some that rang up that didn’t get one of these tests and some that were chosen. Could you tell us what criteria why certain people were chosen and others words?
Henrietta Ewart 38:44
My understanding is that everybody who contacted 111 on Friday and indeed through until about 11 o’clock on Saturday morning, was offered a test. There were no additional criteria added.
Howard Quayle 38:58
Okay, thank you. Thanks very much, Rob. Now we move on to Paul Moulton from Isle of Man television. Good morning, Paul Mora my
Paul Moulton 39:07
Good morning. I hope you hear me okay, sir. Yeah. Great. It’s been a while we can I have a timeline, please. I’m seeing on this. The social media. In fact, Mhk reported it was 10am. On New Year’s Eve, you had your first definite positive result but nothing Of course, you put out until much later in fact, course two Midnight’s you said, is that actually the case? And if so, surely, and we’ve been dancing before. As soon as you get our first case? Shouldn’t alarm bells ringing people that can make their own decisions about will they go out in that night and be that close to other people?
Unknown Speaker 39:38
Can you confirm that piece? Henrietta?
Henrietta Ewart 39:41
I don’t have the timeline in front of me. We do have it so we can confirm it.
Howard Quayle 39:46
David has the details on that.
David Ashford 39:48
Yeah, I’m happy to come in and give you the timeline. So the positive case was identified 10am as you rightly say, on New Year’s Eve, and isolated but then of course, we have to undertake the contact tracing. So the cost tracing was initiated the moment that we knew of this case. The eight close contacts were identified at approximately 230 in the afternoon. And they were then isolated and offered tests at about 530. We had the tests returned from the eight close contacts. One of those, as the chief minister has said was positive seven were negative, and all required to self isolate. As part of the contact tracing process, obviously, we look to try and identify venues and where the people would have been, as well, which was ongoing. And that meant that it was actually late in the evening, before we actually had anything we could guarantee to put out to the public around the situation. So the press release was then worked upon in the early evening, the decision was made to put it out that same night so that people had us. But the earliest opportunity to be able to do that, by the time all the information was collated was around between half 11, and quarter to 12.
Paul Moulton 41:00
I think the point I’m trying to make here is at 10 o’clock in the morning, you had a positive, you could have gone public without forget about the tracing to let people decide what they would like to do
David Ashford 41:10
now we will make a decision. Now we need to know the background to us. So we needed to know the background, particularly around the 14 day self isolation. Also the background for the people as to whether they’ve been out in the community, and if so where so that all forms part of the contact tracing, if we go out and just say to someone who’s past their 14 day isolation, without knowing the facts, where they’ve been, and how many people they may have been in contact with. While it may be good for people to make decisions, Paul, it can also cause absolute mass panic. And this is one of the things I’ve emphasised again before, it is important when we do these briefings, when we put stuff out to the public, that we have the facts behind us that we don’t unnecessarily scare people, because there is people out there in the community, quite rightly, very concerned and very worried about this virus that we don’t fight in them unnecessarily. We have to have the facts to be able to convey to the public. Now we could have held off publishing the release until New Year’s Day, we took the decision that we wanted to get this out as early as possible. And the earliest possible point with the facts in place was New Year’s Eve night.
Paul Moulton 42:14
How would we mass panic by just telling people there’s a positive case 10 o’clock in the morning, rather than at quarter midnight, when people are already at those nightclubs that cause the panic surely by people ringing you
David Ashford 42:25
up next day for tests know, Paul, the panic is what we’ve seen. We’ve seen on social media already this weekend, a lot of people concerned, very vigilant people. But we’ve seen what happens with the information out there. If we go out and we say things without the full information and the full facts there, then that will scare people unnecessarily. It’s important the contact tracing, which is a very important part of this is undertaken. So we can give people the facts. If we just went out and say there’s a positive case, after 14 days, we don’t know where they’ve been. And we haven’t got that information yet. We haven’t identified all their close contacts. We haven’t had those close contacts tested, quite rightly, you guys in the media would be turning around and saying to us, why have you know, why haven’t you got this information, four of us
Howard Quayle 43:13
trying to make a mountain out of a molehill Paul and Paul, we did this within 15 hours, all the testing, contacting all the venues, letting them know what had gone on. I think that’s pretty quick. And again, I would challenge you to find jurisdictions that are reacting as quickly as we are. So I know it’s a big story. But to try and make out that we by taking a small number of hours to do all the testing to make sure what the situation was. So we could give the people the full information rather than just giving them a half a story. I think we’ve acted sensibly and responsibly rather than trying to hold press conferences every five minutes when you don’t have all the information and that way you get people commenting and making irresponsible decisions based on information that we’ve given where we don’t have the full story. But Henrietta, would you like to
Henrietta Ewart 44:03
the particular point I wanted to pick up there was I think, Paul, you’re trying to say that by saying that these cases had been present on the in these venues a week before people might make a different decision about what to do on New Year’s Eve. And actually, the whole point there is that those venues were not places of risk on New Year’s Eve. So there was no purpose in advising people in order for them to decide that they might or might not go there.
Paul Moulton 44:31
Okay, well, my second question, what would you say were the facts, but we don’t do it because we don’t know yet which variant this person’s got until the test come back. So all be that
Howard Quayle 44:41
kind of just hang on that you’ve already been told by the Director of Public Health and it’s not that that has no bearing on the way we handle it whether what the variant is of COVID you’ve just been told that
Paul Moulton 44:55
if I could finish my question, the point I’m trying to get to is that personally went to my club would have gone to The toilet, they would have touched items, whatever if they kept their own bubble, whatever, but they would have moved around that particular place just getting in and out by the very nature of it. And the new variant is obviously incredibly much more easy to catch yet you still say it’s a low risk, even though if it did turn out to be the high variance would not move it up a category.
Henrietta Ewart 45:19
No, not on information and evidence that we currently have in it. In addition, we are still identifying any positive cases. And if we do identify any positive cases, those samples will be sent off with the genomic analysis. But as I said before, that doesn’t make any difference to the immediate management that we’re currently doing.
Howard Quayle 45:39
Thank you, Paul. Right, now we move on to Tim Glover from Manx radio. Good morning, Tim Mara, Ma
Rob Pritchard 45:46
Ma, Ma Ma, Chief Minister. Just going through the timeline, 10th of December, the person arrived 23rd of December 13 days later, they come out to self isolation. A week later 30th December on well and attested there’s a week gap there can you be certainly hadn’t picked up the virus while out in the community. Right, we’ll
Howard Quayle 46:09
ask Henrietta to comment on that, please. Right,
Henrietta Ewart 46:11
we have absolutely no evidence that we have virus circulating in the community. And that’s despite extensive testing that goes on every day, both of people who report with symptoms, and also people who are being screened pre hospital appointment or what have you. And none of that is showing any local transmission. So you then have to say, what is the history on this group. And as we’ve heard, they came in across the border, self isolated in a household. And then a week after release from self isolation, one presented with symptoms. Now, what is the explanation for that there are really three main explanations for that. One is that the individual who tested positive was in the known 1%, that you are at risk of releasing into the community after a 14 day self isolation period. The second possibility is that the individual symptoms actually started prior to the end of self isolation. But for whatever reason, they didn’t recognise them didn’t report them didn’t think they were significant. I don’t want to comment on that, because I you know, this is a hypothetical, I’m not saying that it is the case in this individual. The third possibility, and this is a strong possibility is that the household member who now tested negative as a close contact was infected when they came in, remained asymptomatic, pass the virus on to one or both of the other household members that then went on to test positive, but by the time they were tested as a close contact, they had to become negative. Now, our new testing regime that came on the 23rd of December, will actually mitigate against that set of circumstances happening again, because people will be tested on arrival, or the day after they won on arrival. And then they will then be tested again at the completion of self isolation. So we will be able to manage that time course for people in future. But at the time that this scenario started, that testing regime was not in place.
Rob Pritchard 48:31
Thank you. And second question. It’s a big day tomorrow for a lot of businesses for government offices, obviously returning to work after the Christmas break the building trade. Can we have some clear guidance from government as to what the policy is in situations such as a person has a private party the day after Boxing Day, and they now know that somebody from who was present at 1886 was up at party what the companies do?
Howard Quayle 49:06
Henrietta, would you like to give the advice, though,
Henrietta Ewart 49:08
they need take no action whatsoever, a contact to the low risk contact is that even less risk and no advice would be taken either for them to modify their behaviour or for their employer to modify the behaviour.
Rob Pritchard 49:23
So reclosers we’ve currently got with some businesses you’re and care homes and they’ve made those decisions themselves and swimming pools. They should open.
Henrietta Ewart 49:33
There is no reason for them not to as has been said several times this morning, they were not advised to take any actions. They took actions on their own assessment of what they perceive to be a risk, although I think that lacked the following information. But nevertheless, it’s their prerogative to do that. And if they want to take a cautionary approach they can do so. It is not what they are being advised to do by public health or the government. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 50:01
Thanks very much, Tim. Now we’ll move on to Duncan Fox from all of my newspapers. Good morning, Duncan. normai.
Duncan Faulkes 50:08
The morning, Chief Minister, good morning. Given the seriousness of the situation, would it not have been on perhaps more prudent to get the police to perhaps visit the place such as the 1886 bar at that late time, because from all accounts the the bar that night on Boxing night, boxing day night, is actually crammed full of people? Now, I understand I appreciate the say that maybe there wasn’t too much risk, then but not, you know, but then on New Year’s Eve, and would it not have been prudent to have perhaps sent the police round, rather than missing the press release on New Year’s Eve? And, you know, I understand, you know, that this was sometime after the Boxing Day incident. But, you know, would it not be more prudent rather than printing press release, but to send the police around? Perhaps,
Howard Quayle 51:04
Henrietta, would you like to answer that
Henrietta Ewart 51:06
there was absolutely no indication for that whatsoever. Because as we’ve gone through the risk pertaining from the venue itself, was not there on New Year’s Eve. So there was no reason to advise anyone to either factor that into consideration about whether they wanted to attend that or any other venue, or whether any other action should be taken in respect to the venue.
Howard Quayle 51:28
It is fair to say that about all the venues and named were told before we went out with the press release that members of the public who had been infected had been at their premises. So they were advised that either by phone or in person, so they didn’t find out, as a result of the press release, they had been told well in advance,
Duncan Faulkes 51:47
but do just a little, some sides of that the at&t six part did tell Facebook that they that it was news to them, it’s news to us, in their Facebook post on New Year’s Eve. They said it was news to us. And can you comment on that?
Howard Quayle 52:05
Well, I can only comment that I was I have been advised that everyone who as as I’ve already said, who was named in the press release, or the venue was told either in person or by telephone? I don’t know, Henrietta?
Henrietta Ewart 52:18
That’s my understanding. I mean, one could only speculate, but maybe the person who posted the Facebook message had somehow got out of the loop on that.
Duncan Faulkes 52:27
My second question, many of our readers are concerned worried about situation, achievement. So you say we’re playing a waiting game? I mean, if we get out of this, it will be a close call, many would argue. I mean, is this not the time when we should reconsider our border situation to return to level a level five? Because of the worry, because of the concern of our readers and the general populace?
Howard Quayle 52:58
Yeah, well, you don’t get it as a consultant concern for all of us council of ministers are meeting this afternoon to take on further additional information to make any should we need feel the need to make any further changes to borders. That said, I think it’s worth noting that we have already made significant changes to our borders policy, before this event outbreak actually happened. And that is with the additional testing now, of people who are travelling and day one in a day 13 test. We’ve also stopped temporarily or compassionate transport onto the island, and we’ve significantly tightened up key workers. So I think if you analyse where, what level five is on level four is with the changes that we’ve actually made. We’ve got to continue to allow patients who need to go away for specialist treatment to travel, we’ve stopped the hours exercise. So we really have tightened up from where we had been. Obviously it’s never say never and if evidence from our medics and DOD, Director of Public Health. If that evidence from them changes, then we will, of course, make further changes, but it has been significantly tightened. I don’t know Dr. Yoda, there’s anything you’d like to add to that? Yes. I
Henrietta Ewart 54:14
mean, as always, the response to the COVID situation is one of risk assessment and risk appetite. And so it does need to change in the light of changing circumstances. And that’s obviously something that combing will consider.
Howard Quayle 54:28
Yeah, I’ve always said, Sorry. So I’ve always said it’s never an tablets of stone. We you the you’re learning all the time about this forest. You’re learning all the time about the vaccine, and the length of period that you can vaccinate it between the two jabs. You’re learning how violent the new strain is, we’d thought it was 70%. I’m told now they think it’s about 50% 56% extra. So things change all the time that when we get the latest information, we will revisit Obviously our board is in the Council of Ministers.
Duncan Faulkes 55:05
Howard Quayle 55:06
Thank you very much, Duncan. And now last but not least, we have Julian Turner from energy. FM. Good morning, June Mara. My Good morning, Chief
Juan Turner 55:13
Minister. Good morning, Dr. Yours. I want to talk about the vaccinations, if possible, it’s obviously 19 days now since the vaccine arrived, or will be when the first person gets that. Is there any reason why there weren’t plans in place to start the vaccination programme immediately? And also, you say that phase one, which is care workers and care homes, the dhsc originally says that that was going to take around eight weeks, which obviously takes us to the first of March, and then you’re looking at the over 80s. So when’s the projected date for the the mass vaccination of the general public under the age of 80? projected to commence?
Howard Quayle 55:54
Okay, coming, David, on that, who’s dealing with this? Thank you.
David Ashford 55:58
Yeah, I’m happy to take those questions do And first of all, in terms of why didn’t we start immediately, we were waiting, and I’m standing the crown indemnity from the government. In the UK, which we received, I think was 17th of December. In the end, we will also outstanding some of the handling protocols. As I said in my little piece earlier on, there’s everything as part of the licence for using the vaccine, the certain measures that have to be met, around storage security. Even as I said, down to how the US vials get disposed of, there was some of those handling protocols that are outstanding. By the time that was all received gone through, which was the 18th of December, obviously, we’ve got a very short window then, where we’ve got the two weeks with Christmas and New Year. And we’ve got to use those trays of x in the face of vaccine, they need to be defrosted as 975 you can’t split the tray. And once they are defrosted, they can only be stored at fridge temperature for five days after that the vaccine is wasted. So we made the decision that it was better to start when we had a full week, which were the first full week was this week, where we can guarantee We will definitely use the whole tray of 975 rather than wasting what is precious supplies. The other reason as well is one of the things we have wanted to play safe on is to make sure that we have enough stock to do the second dose, because the violence comes obviously in two doses. And one of the things we wanted to do is although there is now advice from the Joint Committee on vaccination and immunisation, that you can actually go up to 12 weeks between the two doses, five of themselves with their vaccine is still recommending the 21 days. So we were building the whole picture around having to have making sure we’ve got enough trays to be able to do the 21 days later. So we’re not having people who’ve had the first dose and then having to wait. So that’s the reason for that.
Juan Turner 57:51
Okay, and the other part of my question was about the timetable for the well, I call it the maximum that mass vaccination. But obviously you said it was care homes and health workers in phase one that was projected to take eight weeks. So you’re still on that timeline, then the over 80s. And then obviously, what happens then because that, as I said, the over 80, were projected to start vaccination on the first of March
David Ashford 58:17
yet. So with the over 80s, we will be able potentially to overlap a couple other phases. So we as I said, I think I said in my opening piece, we’re writing out to the over 80s to register now this week, in terms of the care homes and the frontline health care workers, we may still be rolling those out at the same time as we’re doing the over 80s. So we should be able to overlap some of the phasers. So it’s not a case of the over 80s may have to wait to march. We’re looking to see if we can do that sooner. In terms of your other parts of the question, thank you for reminding me and was about mass population rollout. That will obviously not just depend on us getting people registered, but also the supplies coming in, we get our vaccination is based on a per head of population basis. So we receive 0.13% of the UK supplies. Now if everything runs to course and the UK receives the amount of vaccine they are expecting, then we hope to be able to start and out into the other age categories around about Easter time or just shortly after Easter. And if however, the UK doesn’t receive the quantities of vaccination they’re expecting that obviously has a knock on effect to the amount of vaccination we receive as well, as happened and I think I mentioned at one of the briefings when the UK got its first order, they were expecting 800,000 vaccine vaccines and they didn’t get anywhere near that. So that had a knock on effect with us. But that’s the only thing that would knock it out is if the UK get less than they expect in any particular order that decreases the amount were entitled to as well. Okay,
Juan Turner 59:53
I take the point that not everybody is going to want to have the vaccine but assuming that the island’s population will want to be vaccinated? Do you have a projected timetable on when you would see that process? pretty much complete.
David Ashford 1:00:07
So it will run throughout the entire year, because the orders of vaccinations that the UK are receiving are spread out between now and certainly up to the end of September, if not beyond. So the amount and share we will be receiving will be delivered in that way as well. So it’s certainly it’s not a case of were suddenly going to be given our entire contingent dose of vaccine and then we just roll it out, the deliveries are spaced over the next 12 months.
Juan Turner 1:00:32
And is that likely to impact on travel arrangements for people between the islands and further afield?
David Ashford 1:00:38
Well, I think as I mentioned before, it wouldn’t necessarily the vaccine wouldn’t necessarily change travel arrangements as such, because one of the two of the things we don’t really know about the vaccine at the moment is firstly, whether it can it stops you contracting COVID-19, or just lessen symptoms, the evidence at the moment seems to suggest it doesn’t stop contraction only less than symptoms. But the other crucial thing is if someone contracts it who’s had the vaccine, there’s no evidence to say they can’t pass it on to other people. And so what we’ve been more looking at is van travel is exactly what we have been looking at, which is around the you know the amount of virus in all the countries that’s more likely to drive our decision making.
Howard Quayle 1:01:20
Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your questions. And thank you all for your questions this morning. Now, whilst you You brought news of those two unusual COVID cases, it also brought good news in the form of the New Year’s Honours. Her Majesty, the Queen recognised seven people from the island for their outstanding public service and dedication to our community. Three of the seven honours are specifically to recognise the contributions made in response to COVID-19. And I would like to extend my congratulations to Jane Glover, Christian volley, and Susan watarrka, who received MBs for their efforts during the pandemic. I would also like to extend my congratulations to john Riley and Charles guard, who also received MBs. And finally, my congratulations to Edna Clarke, who received the British Empire medal and to our Chief Constable Gary Roberts, who received the Queen’s police medal. You are shining examples of selflessness, and public service, which is in such abundance in our island community. Before I go, I’ll finish with a reminder on the basics on good hand and respiratory hygiene. Regular wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you cough or sneeze, do it into a handkerchief tissue or the crook of your elbow. Then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Please stay responsible. Thank you and enjoy the rest of your Sunday. Bye bye