This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government’s Coronavirus Media Briefing held on Thursday 11 March 2021. In particular, for any legal guidance, you should seek advice from official sources.
You should not rely heavily upon it — it is transcribed by an automated speech recognition service, and I cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any local Manx words (especially in Gaelic) are more likely to be inaccurate. Also, the automated speech recognition service often converts proper nouns incorrectly (especially the spoken words “Isle of Man” to “Ireland” or “all of man”).
Before relying or quoting anything contained here, you should verify it against the underlying audio recorded here. Time Stamps and automatically-generated speaker names should help in the verification.
I obviously do not own the copyright in the underlying words (eg, whatever has been said by the speakers) and I am providing these transcripts because they are of self-evident public interest. I think that I do own the copyright in the adaption/conversion into written text. I’m happy to license these transcripts publicly under a free and very open Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.
Howard Quayle 0:00
Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for joining us again today. He with me at the podium is the minister of health and social care. And on Zoom, we have the Minister for Education, sport and culture, and our Director of Public Health. I hope you’ve had the opportunity to take a look at the exit framework that we published this week. I know it has been well received, even though it will almost certainly be subject to change over the coming weeks and months. I hope it has given you a clear understanding of the road ahead. I need to once again thanks, James, to thank James Davis for leading a discussion with Mark Lewin from our department of enterprise on this that you can view online. In a second, I will hand over to minister Ashford for an update on testing numbers from the last 24 hours. Just before I do, I would like to make a point of my own on data. I know that people are carefully following the numbers that we release on social media and to the media each day. I know there has been a lot of debate about what the figures mean. And I know that there is a wish to see more. The team has been working on a dashboard that I hope will allow everyone to see for themselves the story as it unfolds. I know that lots of people have found the vaccination das dashboard very useful. This new dashboard Well, for example, break daily cases down into those that are linked to known existing positives, and those that might be so far unexplained. The team have been doing the final revisions today. And I will share it with 10 board members tomorrow morning. And we aim for it to be fully live after that. This will be a version one. If people have thoughts on what else might be included, then we are open to ideas. There are some things that it is not possible for us to publish for patient confidentiality reasons. But where we can share we will a good moment I think to hand over to minister Ashford for today’s numbers. David,
David Ashford 2:02
thank you Chief Minister. The total tests undertaken stands at 38,147. The total tests concluded stands at 38,137. So the awaiting results figure is 10. new cases identified is 65. That means the total cases now stands at 1091. We have 644 active cases of which 12 are in hospital. Just having done the figures I want to clear up a couple of points on the figures that I know may sometimes cause confusion, and firstly turning to awaiting results. I know some people have queried the awaiting results figures saying I’ve been tested but not been told my results yet. So why is it zero? Well, this is not what awaiting results is it was COVID early on in the pandemic last year when stats started to be issued. But it’s worth clarifying again, since we’re now 12 months on awaiting results means test still to be processed in the laboratory that have had no result returned. It does not mean the individuals have received contact from 111 with the results. This is shown by the fact it ties in with the two figures above or two in the table. In other words total tests undertaken and total tests concluded. This is the difference between these two laboratory figures on what the lab has processed and has outstanding to process. giving out of results is a manual process undertaken by 111 and takes a good amount of time, particularly when I was currently a large number of tests has been undertaken a current level several 100 a day minimum. So zero awaiting results means the lab have processed and produced results for all tests that they have received. Not that all those people have received confirmation from 111 of their results. This has always been the case and is not something new. The lab have been working till 3am most days over the last week to try and clear everything they have daily. So at the moment most days will show a wait and results zero. So if we take today’s awaiting results, it means that the point the snapshot was taken, the lab had received 10 tests it still had to get results for the second thing I want to address is some confusion that came over the difference in figures. That was an issue with the last briefing. At the last press conference I made clear that the figures being given were a snapshot and that cases may rise as time went on. The figures that are shared with council of ministers and 10 board members in the morning are the raw figures from the Laboratory of swabs that have tested positive from the moment we last reported. These are then passed to the contact tracing team who examine each one and are verified as cases. So why do they need to be verified as K It’s because we have to be sure that a fresh positive result is actually a new case, the total number of positive cases identified by the lab may not all be new cases, it may contain repeat tests, day seven tests and day 13 tests of people who have already tested positive on a previous test. And so we’re already a positive case, and not therefore a new case. So it is important that verification process is completed. So we get an accurate number of new cases and aren’t duplicating people in those figures. In previous outbreaks, this hasn’t been a problem, as the verification process is finished by 4pm. When this briefing starts, but with the current numbers of tests coming back, the sheer volume is massive for the team. So it took well into the evening on that occasion for them all to be examined and logged as new cases. In fact, if memory serves me correct, it was after 8pm at night that this was finished. We know how much some people rely on and are interested in the figures. So it was felt that although the verification was not complete, it was important to give the figures that have been verified up to 4pm. Rather than simply going out and saying we have no figures to give, which is why I clearly batched it when giving the figures that it was a snapshot of what had been processed and confirmed by 4pm. And stress that the number will be likely to rise as the day went on. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 6:33
Thank you very much, David. The Council of Ministers head this morning that the figures may indicate that the lockdown measures and your actions may be having some impact. There is a long way to go yet, but it does feel that we are heading in the right direction. Although active cases have continued to rise, the daily increase has started to reduce. We do know that subject to negative day 13 tests over the next few days, we are about to see a lot of active cases, leave self isolation. This will mean the number of active cases should reduce. I should add my thanks to the swabbing teams and those in the lab who have been working really long hours that pace over the last week they have done and tested over 4000 swabs. I know many people will want to know if they if we have now hit a peak. And I will ask our Director of Public Health to give us a far more expert view than I can, along with any other updates on what we are seeing through our testing and tracing. Dr. Ewart.
Henrietta Ewart 7:37
Thank you, Chief Minister. Yes. Fortunately, for the last few days, we have been seeing a consistent drop off in the number of new cases each day. And from the curve, it looks as if we have at least plateaued and are possibly beginning to come down. When we share the dashboard which Chipman is has already mentioned today, you’ll be able to see that curve for yourselves. And it will make it much more visually apparent than just giving numbers does. But it does look as if that’s the case we’re plateauing and coming off the peak. Now, in terms of the age distribution, although children and young people is still the largest group, that group is increasingly becoming people who we already know are infected rather than the new cases. The greatest number of the new cases are now in the slightly older age groups, the young adults and then the older adults. And that really reflects reflects household transmission, as houses which had an index case who was a child or young person. That case then goes on to infect parents, siblings and other household members. So we’re seeing what we expect to see. And we haven’t seen any surprises yet. And let’s hope it continues that way. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 8:58
Thank you very much, Dr. Yu it. I’ve said it before, but I need to say it again. We are dealing with a virus that if left unchecked can move through our community at an eye watering pace. The best way to stop it is to stay at home. Please do everything you can to prevent household mixing. This is what is going to allow us to come out of this as early as possible and to protect our vaccination programme. On our vaccination programme. It has been great to see the increase in numbers now coming through. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The team delivered more than 1000 jabs each day, yesterday was in fact over 1100 I understand that they are on course to break that 1000 Mark again today. This really is excellent. I’m particularly pleased to say that 84% of our first four priority groups, so residents and care homes those days 70 and above those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and frontline health Often social care workers have now had at least one dose. David, would you like to add anything further on the vaccination programme?
David Ashford 10:07
Yes, thank you, Chief Minister turning to the vaccination programme. At the beginning of the design of the programme, we may clear that as we entered March, that was when we would start to receive increased stock of the vaccine and be able to ramp up our vaccination schedule. This is exactly what has happened. As of the most recent update just before I came into this briefing, we have delivered 4000 or 38 jobs so far this week alone. That’s 3643 first doses, and 395 second doses since Monday, tomorrow, we will have delivered over 30,000 jobs both first and second doses combined, and have now vaccinated with at least one dose over 41% of our most vulnerable people in our community. And as the chief minister said, 84% of the top private for priority groups, and that number is climbing daily. I know also that people ask how we compare to the UK rollout. So I just want to give you some information on that. As people may remember, we started our rollout three weeks after the UK, due to the fact we needed the indemnity agreed and in place, and by then the Christmas period had hit as of close of play last night, the UK had delivered doses that’s both first and second doses combined to the equivalent of 35.3 people per 100 people in their population. Here on Ireland, we are delivered doses to the equivalent of 33.4 people, or 100 per 100 people. So a 1.9% difference in terms of the different types of doses delivered again as of last night, the UK had delivered first doses to 33.5% of their population, we had to 22.5% but it has to be remembered. We had until a few weeks ago, been delivering second doses at 28 days, whereas the UK changed early on to prioritise first doses and stretch out the second dose. Even before the clinical trials on the effect of the approach on the first dose have been completed and published in early February. When it comes to second doses, which is what is required to complete someone’s vaccination. The UK has 1.8% of its population fully vaccinated. We have 10.9% of our population fully vaccinated. So some interesting and important figures to get out there publicly. And they show that despite what some people are saying, we are not massively behind the UK. In fact, we are close to level. Even although our programme started three weeks later, just as we said we would be at this stage. I just want to stick with vaccines if I may, Chief Minister, and touch again on a topic I’ve raised a few times before that of consent. Those who do not have the capacity to consent to their own vaccination must undergo were best interest policy with their GP before they can be vaccinated. And the GP must certify that the vaccination is in that person’s best interests. We still having relatives turning up with people who can’t consent, wanting them vaccinated. Relatives can’t consent on the person’s behalf. Even if that relative has in other circumstances, the power to consent to other things on that person’s behalf. It has to with the vaccine be arranged via the person to be vaccinated as GP. We have a video to play to you all after this briefing where our consultant geriatrician Dr. Duncan Gerry, explains what consent means and what steps need to be taken to get a loved one vaccinated who can’t consent for themselves. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 13:58
Thank you very much, David. And I hope you’re all delighted with the figures that were saying I did promise you that by the end of this month, we would have caught up with the UK on the number on the same ratio of people per 100 as have been vaccinated in the UK and as the UK have one of the best records in the world. It means that the Isle of Man is there to I’m delighted that we’re going to be ahead of that shedule and we will have caught up far earlier than the end of this month. Also, again, thanks very much to our vaccinators who are doing a sterling job. And I know that because I’m getting a phenomenal feedback from all of you who’ve been for a vaccine, saying how delighted you’ve been with the warm welcome you’ve received and the efficient way that you’ve been handled and treated. So thank you very much again, David. Now I know that a number of you will be keen to hear about what is happening with our schools. Let me hand over to the Minister of Education, sport and culture for his update. Alex.
Alex Allinson 14:53
Thank you. Last week in response to the decision to close our schools and nurseries. I talked about establishing childcare provision for the children of our critical workers. However, as we continue to hit a peak of daily cases, we’ve reviewed the latest data on how infection is currently spreading, particularly amongst our children and young people, is therefore been decided that now is not the appropriate time to reopen any childcare provision. I’d like to apologise for this for the instruction. This continues to cause working families, especially to many of our critical workers. But safety of our children, young people and our wider community has been and continues to be of paramount importance. We will continue to work with teachers and childcare providers to plan for the phased reopening of facilities as soon as it is safe to do so. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 15:48
Thank you very much, Alex. Before I go to questions from the media, I would like to pass on a few important messages. First of all, I know that the pandemic has caused financial challenges and uncertainty. If you find yourself in difficulty or need some advice, please remember that the Office of Fair Trading provides a confidential debt counselling service. This gives people the opportunity to talk to a specialist to talk to a specialist debt counsellor about their financial concerns. And you can contact the service on 686510 that 686510. The Office of Fair Trading can also provide advice for tenants who may be concerned about their rights during and beyond the current lockdown. And the number for them to call is 686 500. That’s 686500. If you are facing difficulties, please call there is help there for you. A second message I’ve been asked to mention here is the strain on our emergency services. They are working under real pressure at the moment, not least because a number of them have been required to self isolate, and they are doing everything they can to maintain responsible social distancing. We have spoken here before about the importance of all playing our part. Please think about what you can do to minimise the risk of the emergency services being required. Whether this is your driving a sporting activity, or anything else. Let’s all do our bit so that they are there to respond when we need them most. Let’s go to questions from the media. And first we have Josh Stokes from ITV. Granada. Good afternoon, Josh foster my
Unknown Speaker 17:32
good afternoon chief minister’s question to yourself and up to you it please we can see that the figures continue to be incredibly high for the islands still, just yesterday, we heard from yourself don’t do it that we could see another four or five, maybe even six weeks before we can be clear that restriction should be changed. People are fatigued. They want honesty, they need to plan ahead. Surely you can announce today Chief Minister, this 21 day circuit breaker will not be long enough to regain that control that so needed.
Howard Quayle 18:00
Well, I think Josh, that’s a question or the you or another asked me at the beginning of the week, and we said we’ve got to wait for data. Yes, and I think I said at the time at this moment in time, I do not think we will be out of lockdown within the three week period. I’m looking at our good friends and colleagues in Guernsey, they have taken longer to come out of this lockdown. Then we did our second lockdown, for example, there’s the new variant, it spread much easier. If everyone follows the rules, they stay at home wherever possible, we will come out of this much quicker. If people don’t follow the rules and continue to make maybe when they shouldn’t, we will stay in this lockdown for a longer period. So we cannot give you an exact date. That that’s an absolute key thing. But we’re absolutely working our best to ensure that the lockdown is as short as possible. If it’s longer for three weeks, but we’re seeing a significant reduction in numbers, then we will look at ways of bringing certain sectors back to work as long as they follow will follow the middle and put in place mitigation processes and wearing of PP etc. So it won’t be a fall from the position we are in now. For the coming weeks. We will look to ease it as we go forward. But really it is in the hands of everyone on this island that the sooner we come out of this. It’s down to everyone where possible, staying at home. Doctor you What would you like to add to that, please?
Henrietta Ewart 19:23
Yes, not a lot to add, really except to say that from here on in the majority of cases that we see should be in known high risk contacts of the previous wave of community cases. If we keep seeing new community cases that aren’t linked to existing cases, then that indicates that there are issues around the way people are observing the circuit breaker restrictions and that is down to behaviour. So really just to reiterate rate what the chief minister has said that the sooner we can get out of this is really down to people really observing all the requirements and not mixing and if they do have to be in a place where other people are making sure they observe social distancing, use of face coverings, respiratory etiquette and to keeping their hands washed or sanitised. So it really is, to an extent up to each and every one of us. We all need to behave as if we are infected. And we all need to behave as if the places that we are in are a risk for us becoming infected. Thank you.
Unknown Speaker 20:31
Thank you just
Unknown Speaker 20:31
just to clarify that chief mistake you say about the date and we shouldn’t be hanging on to a date. So presumably, we shouldn’t be hanging on to those that 21 day period anymore, either. Is that what you’re saying?
Howard Quayle 20:40
Well, what I’m saying is that our last lockdown, we went for 21 days, I think we came out in about day 2425 if memory serves me correct, so we call this lockdown a three week circuit break again, whilst we became aware of what was happening where we’re learning all the time. I don’t think personally, but the data is not there yet that when that is going to be within the 21 days, I think it is going to take longer for us to come out of this given the infectiousness the way this variant has spread. So quickly. I think I said my initial speech, it was eye watering the speed with which that it’s been able to spread so quickly amongst people, it’s highly infectious. So I would expect it to go on to take longer than the initial three weeks. But as I can’t give you an exact date because it really is in the hands of people. I think people think the first lockdown. Not many people got it, etc, etc. But we’re dealing with a different variant. Now this new variant, the ken variant is highly infectious, and people need to respect it and realise that, as Dr. You it says please don’t go out unless you really have to.
Unknown Speaker 21:53
Okay, thank you. My second question for minister, Ashwin, please. In regards to those hospital admissions troll people is quite the increase overnight, you just give us an update on the capacity available at nobles hospital. How many beds are currently available for COVID patients? And can this be increased if needed?
David Ashford 22:09
Yes, so we have a full Ward for COVID positive patients, Josh, I believe the capacity of the ward is around about 18. But then of course, there’s ICU capacity that plays into that as well. And we can create all the wards if necessary. As we did during the outbreak last year, we have to remember that people in hospital covers a wide range of people. So it may be patient transfers have come back from treatment in the UK, who are COVID positive Sony and they need to remain in hospital. For other treatments. It equally means people who may have gone into hospital for another treatment, but have tested COVID positive when they’ve gone in. So I’ve had to go so reclass into the figures as well. So it’s not just people who’ve become COVID, positive, deteriorated and then go into hospital. It’s a mix.
Unknown Speaker 22:55
Okay, and just just off the back of that this this increase that we’ve had Does that concern you at this point?
David Ashford 22:59
At this point, it doesn’t obviously anyone being in hospital with COVID is a concern. But in terms of the capacity and our ability to cope, that is not commonly a concern. But obviously it’s something we have to keep constantly under review. And you know, as a health service, we are continuously keeping that under review.
Howard Quayle 23:18
Okay, thanks very much, Josh. And next we have a hell on McKenna from all of my newspapers. Good afternoon, Helen, faster, my
Helen McKenna 23:25
glasziou ministers. Just before I asked my questions, can I just check with the Health Minister please the number of how many people are currently self isolating.
David Ashford 23:35
So I’ll bring the Director of Public Health in as well just in case she says she’s got any different figures me but my figure shows the total number commonly in self isolation is 3409. I don’t know if doctor you it has the same figure.
Unknown Speaker 23:53
I can’t pull it up at the minute. So
David Ashford 23:55
I won’t call out the figures I’ve got which is self isolation total is 3409 high risk close contacts it within that figure is 1676.
Helen McKenna 24:07
Okay, so my first question is about what proportion of new cases are coming from household transmission and what proportion are coming from unknown community sources.
David Ashford 24:19
So in relation to the unknown sources, my understanding is the numbers are going down compared to where they were, we are still identifying some from unknown sources. That will be the case as we said, it takes it takes seven eight days to feed into the data. So we are still within the period. So we will still see that for the next number of days. But I also believe that the numbers in terms of household transmission of people over the isolated as you would expect are the wild and are one of the main drivers but I’ll bring the Director of Public Health in.
Henrietta Ewart 24:51
Yes, that’s correct minister and I’ve managed to pull up the figures now. So we have 448 locally acquired cases with unknown source. So that’s largely household and other close contacts and 143 that are of an unknown source. And that number is going down as we said we’d expect because you know, that’s the tail end of the community acquired before the circuit breaker arrangements were put in place. Thank you.
Helen McKenna 25:21
Okay. My second question is about Denmark, Norway, Italy and Iceland have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to the risk of blood clots. What’s the Isle of Man stance on this?
David Ashford 25:36
Right, so in relation to AstraZeneca, there are several countries that currently have halted as of the ninth of March 22 cases of thrombosis events have been reported amongst 3 million people vaccinated within the European Economic Area. So there’s no evidence at this time of that being any higher than would have been seen in the non vaccinated population. In fact, my understanding is it’s actually slightly lower than what would be expected in a overall population. So nothing was showing up in the trials and the UK has been widely using AstraZeneca. And it’s reported no issues. There’s been no issues that have been flagged via the yellow card system in the UK, which is the way doctors or other medical professionals can report issues of someone vaccinated. And the UK so far has used just over 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. So the European medical agency, although investigating has made clear that this is no higher than what you would see in the population of people unvaccinated. There isn’t commonly a proven link, they are investigating, but they haven’t changed their recommendation as an agency on the use of AstraZeneca. And I don’t know if the Director of Public Health has got anything else to add.
Henrietta Ewart 26:50
And really just to support what you’ve just said there and clearly Association doesn’t prove causation, and particularly not when the incidence is actually lower than you’d expect in an unvaccinated population anyway, so why those countries have decided to take the decision they have given that the Europeans medicine agency has not advised that? I don’t know. Thank you. Okay,
Howard Quayle 27:16
thanks very much, Helen. Now we have Rob Pritchard from three FM Good afternoon, Rob faster. My
Unknown Speaker 27:21
estimate, Chief Minister, my first question for the health minister, just with regards to testing, quite a few people have commented about waiting times for test results at the moment, given the high case numbers that we’re seeing and the high amounts of testing that we’re having to do. Could you give us some clarity on what the average waiting time is for a test results at the moment,
David Ashford 27:40
and it can be up to several days, Rob 111, what the process is basically the lab processes the results, and then 111 has to contact the individuals, I do ask people to bear with us because it does take a substantive amount of time. With the current levels were seeing. That’s not unusual just for us. When jersey went through their outbreak, I think it was three days on average, people were waiting for results to come back. So 111 has been under pressure trying to return all those calls, they are doing so as fast as they can. They’re also sending the emails, of course, as well, because some people have opted to receive the results via email. And we will get through them as quickly as possible. The lab is clearing down the test, but then 111 has to pick up and contact the individuals in normal times. This wouldn’t be an issue, and we’ve done very well i think i think in normal times in getting to everything done within 24 hours. But I’m afraid at this point in time due to the volumes that we’re going through people unfortunately, we’ll have to be patient.
Unknown Speaker 28:40
Okay, thank you. My second question is for the Education Minister, of course, no return for childcare. So at the moment, but in terms of you mentioned that you’re continuing to speak with the likes of head teachers, nurseries and childminders going forward, could you give us a bit more detail as to some of the options that are being explored in the long term, even if you can’t give any dates?
Alex Allinson 28:59
Suddenly, Rob, again, I apologise that we’ve had to delay the opening of facilities, we were initially planning to open one hub school, close to nobles hospital for key staff there. Um, but when we had infection control, looking around the premises, they flagged up the very real problem of the levels of infection amongst children, young people, gathering too many people in one place. And therefore, not only spreading the infection, theoretically, through the staff and pupils, but also then back into the wider community. What we’re working on at the moment is much more diffuse, so that we can use existing facilities for very small numbers of people, keep people in care bubbles, and also bringing, bringing in routine testing, both for staff and students before they access that. Now, obviously, in United Kingdom there, they’ve tried various ways of trying to make sure that schools remain safe and what we’re doing is looking at testing protocols for pupils going back into Go so that we can try to guarantee as much as possible that they don’t take the virus in there with them. So at the moment, we’re drawing up protocols for this. And hopefully, we’ll be able to announce more details next week.
Unknown Speaker 30:13
So just for clarity on that, if I don’t mind. So you’re saying there’s a possibility that we could see more regular testing for school pupils, and teachers going forward.
Alex Allinson 30:21
That’s one of the things we are exploring at the moment. Obviously, as you’ve just said, testing and swapping is under a lot of pressure at the moment to control the infection on our island to get on top of it. And so we don’t want to put the existing Resource Centre any extra pressure. But as hopefully we get over the peak of infections, we have a breathing space to create more capacity for some routine testing. This is one of the things we’re looking into. Because when we gradually reopen facilities, we want to make sure they stay open, and we want to make sure we can then expand on that provision for working families. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 30:59
Thanks very much, Rob. And now we move on to you and gone from Manx radio. Good afternoon, you and faster my faster. My
Unknown Speaker 31:06
question is for the Director of Public Health, FEMA, Dr. USM. He said yesterday in your discussion on the exit framework with James Davis, the island must reach 21 days no new community cases before lockdown measures can consider or you could consider lifting. And so kind of just ask how are we measuring community cases in that event? You know, considering the fact we’re currently in a lockdown what what are the metrics you’re looking at for making that decision?
Henrietta Ewart 31:37
community cases are the unexpected and unexplained ones, ones that do not link to household or to another high risk contacts. So those are the ones that give us most concern, and lead us to think that it is still circulating in the community, and that elements in the community are still mixing and allowing it to spread
Unknown Speaker 31:59
through river 21 days is achieved, would it be safe to lift all restrictions or lockdown restrictions?
Henrietta Ewart 32:07
It’s impossible ever to say anything is safe, it’s all about levels of risk. The number 21 comes from the fact that the incubation cycle of COVID is 14 day. Now even that is not an absolute guarantee there is the possibility that the occasional person, a very small percentage, probably less than 1%, will actually incubate for longer than 14 days. 21 days really gets you beyond the time at which anybody is likely to be incubating. The technical cutoff for closing an outbreak in epidemiological terms is twice the incubation period. So that takes you up to 28 days. So 28 days is kind of the technical definition. 21 days is a good pragmatic definition, about which about which time you will be starting to think that you could consider either lifting or gradually lifting some sequentially of the restrictions that have been in place.
Unknown Speaker 33:12
With Chief Minister, just on the sequential lifting of restrictions, you mentioned that certain trades, you might consider allowing them to return to work should the situation allow? Will we also be seeing changes to what you might allow households to do concurrently with those changes?
Howard Quayle 33:32
Well, we’ve tried to learn from previous lockdowns to see what we can allow without being too making like too difficult for members of the public, but trying to stop that that spread. So I think we had hoped to be able to keep the construction sector going we’ve allowed one man to man bands, builders, etc, to carry on. But we had to shop the construction sector that outside and therefore the risk tends to be great, I’ve sort of tends to be less for them. So that might be the next step when we feel that we’ve got it under control. And then we may look at types of non essential shops, as long as they can put mitigations in place, but just at this moment in time you and it’s too early, but what I can assure everyone is we may be in lockdown for a number of maybe a week or so extra budget won’t be the full lockdown that we’re experiencing. Now if the data proves satisfactory, that we can ease the situation but I can’t give dates I’m afraid it has to be when the data is right, we will start to ease it off. It’s what we’ve done in the past. And it’s what we’ll do again going forward. Thank you very much you. Okay, next we have Alex Bell from BBC Isle of Man. Good afternoon, Alex faster my
Alex Bell 34:46
good afternoon and for the health minister or whoever can answer this with figures and have those hospital admissions which have increased today and are any in ICU and if so, how many
David Ashford 35:00
I can answer that. And the answer is one.
Alex Bell 35:03
One person in ICU, what’s the current capacity of ICU please? So
David Ashford 35:06
the current capacity of ICU is eight to 10 beds. But I believe in our in our programme, we can expand further if necessary.
Alex Bell 35:15
Thank you. And Chief Minister, for my next question. And an island advocate is among a growing number of voices today, who is calling for an independent investigation into the steam packet situation, which triggered this outbreak Now, given that the border policy is such a cornerstone of the Isle of man’s COVID story so far, will you be Will you be triggering an independent review?
Howard Quayle 35:43
Well, if 10 will ask for an independent review, I will of course, that’s up to 10. Well, I won’t be doing it because an individual member of the public wants one that’s that’s for sure. We need to find out what went wrong. I’ve asked for review to find that out. Now. We’ve had a very good service where I don’t believe anyone travelling on the steam packet has caught COVID from a member of staff, they’ve come back with it. But they have not caught it from the crew and the crew haven’t caught it from a member of the public. What’s happened is that an English member of a UK based member of staff on the crew has somehow been able to pass it on to a Manx member of the crew, that then person has gone home and passed it on to the family and and has got out. So we need to learn how did that happen? And what can we do to tighten up to make sure it doesn’t happen again. So that’s a review. I’m happy to share the review once I’ve got the data back. What else are we going to do? You know, it’s happened, the steam packet of looked after us exceptionally well, during a year’s period, something has clearly gone wrong. And we need to learn from that, fix it, make sure it doesn’t happen. Again, we cannot reduce that risk, though. Totally, as I’ve said time and time again, unless we stop all planes and boats coming to the Isle of Man and people coming to the Isle of Man, there will always be a risk. And we have to ensure that we’ve done our very best to mitigate that risk. And as I say, That’s why I’ve asked the chief sector to carry out a review to give us the data to see if we can find where it’s gone wrong. And if there’s an area we need to tighten up, then of course we will if tabled once an independent review that’s entirely for tables to decide. I’m happy with the review that I’ve ordered because order because I want to find out if we can what we need to do to stop it from happening. So if we need to toughen up our borders, we will
Alex Bell 37:39
will it will the review cover the legal and constitutional elements of it though, because what you’ve just said there is kind of the process by which the virus made it into a member of staff. I think that the overarching opinion of people is that the direction notices and the situations around and that needs to be reviewed.
Howard Quayle 37:59
Absolutely. If If there needs to be a change in our legal directions, instructing what what to be done, then that will happen. But we need to find out first and foremost, you know what the review says and if the review recommends a change to our legal directions, and of course, we will do that I’ve got a totally open mind. I don’t know how I don’t personally know how it’s gone on to the island. I want the review to find out to let us know so as to say if we need to alter legislation if we need to tighten the rules or just make sure that people are told exactly what they have to do and labour that then that’s what we’ll do. But let’s not prejudge anything until we’ve had that report, which I’m happy to share with everyone. Bar maybe any personal information. Once I’ve got it a person has been asked to do the review. And I’ve asked I want to get this done as quickly as possible. Thanks, Alex, your next question. So that was my that was your second one. Sorry for that. Right. Next we have Simon Richardson from business 365. Good afternoon, Simon faster. My
Unknown Speaker 39:03
Good afternoon, Chief
Simon Richardson 39:04
Minister, my first questions for you please. One by one. Many of the big events planned for summer are being cancelled again this year with the TT, the Manx Grand Prix bowls festival, beer festival and numerous others. It’s obviously disastrous for the tourism sector. Are you satisfied that the current levels of support provided are sufficient to prevent large swathes of the tourism businesses from going under? And also, given that many tourist businesses are fairly bespoke and don’t fit easily into specific categories? Are you satisfied that there isn’t too much red tape involved in claiming support?
Howard Quayle 39:43
Well, obviously I’ve asked the Department for enterprise and Minister Skelly to look at this. We have given a considerable amount of money to that sector, but I you know, well, I think we’re gonna have to give more or clearly the Manx Grand Prix is being cancelled. We’ve said the reasons why. Personally I’m very disappointed with that as I am A big supporter. However, that’s what we were were facing. And therefore, we felt it important when we came up with our current framework to let the industry know, if you’ve got Easter bookings, the chances of that happening are pretty remote. And therefore, you may want to alter your business to an isolation business where you’ve got a lot of people coming over, we’ve said that hopefully, by the end of April into May, our high risk groups will of all have had at least one dose and we may be able to then look at allowing visitors for that family and friends to come to the Isle of Man to visit they will need to isolate. And there could be more business for some of our hospitality sectors, the the hotels, bed and breakfasts, etc, to put them up. So that’s I’m afraid is where they’re going to have to look at. We wanted them to realise that from as early as possible, and should we need to give extra support than I know our tourism sector are working with the industry to see what needs to be put in place to help those sectors. So very important sectors. And we will do our utmost to to give them the best support that we can Simon.
Simon Richardson 41:09
Thank you. And the second question is for the health minister, please, Mr. Ashworth, I’ve been approached by a person who’s had a serious gallbladder operation cancelled six times, and an eye operation cancelled three times. Now the latest cancellation he fully understands given the COVID flare up. The others were not during the pandemic phase. Now his concern is twofold. One that under normal winter conditions, it seems nobles is struggling to cope. So if our main acute hospital can’t deal with our current population, how does it sit with government’s desire to actually grow the population. And secondly, and more Currently, the one on one service when you call has two options, swabs and symptoms and vaccinations. Now, because he was having an operation he was booked in for a pre op swab. Now, presumably, there are many others in the same boat. But he’s tried repeatedly to get through on 111, which, as we know, is very busy to cancel his swab test. He’s worried that this could ultimately waste the time of the swab team who could fill the appointments that he had with somebody waiting for a test and suggested separating the swabbing symptoms from the vaccinations and establishing a second dedicated phone line might be an option. Is this feasible?
David Ashford 42:27
I think the problem is you can end up with multiple phone lines for multiple different things. And there’s not just that permeations lots of other things where we could separate out. And then you end up with as you end up with some businesses when you ring them up, where you’re spending longer on the phone getting through the options than you actually are getting through to someone. It is a high volume time for 111. Let’s be honest, this isn’t normal. In previous times, prior to this outbreak, people have been able to get through to 111 in a timely manner. It hasn’t had this issue. I think trying to design a system for something that we have on a temporary basis is not really the way to go. There are other avenues people can take if they need to cancel these email addresses out there, etc. Where they can make contact via email, I realise not everyone is technically minded and they might need the phone. And it is frustrating for them at this current time. But it is important that people persevere with that, in relation to the hospital itself. All hospitals come under winter pressure, you cannot run a hospital 365 days a year geared up for winter pressures, that just would not be practical, either from a health delivery point of view, or even a financial point of view. So that is why we have winter mitigation plans in place. Unfortunately, in some areas that have been more pressures than normal this year, and than the previous year, that wouldn’t normally be the case where we do have extreme pressures as well. We normally seek assistance from the UK, for instance, if we have pinch point areas to bring the numbers down. As we’ve seen, the UK has their own problems and have had their own problems for the last 12 months. So we haven’t been able to buy in the support and put people into maybe into the UK system in the way we have in previous years. So I know you know, the phrase Perfect Storm probably isn’t the best of approaches. But that’s what it’s pretty much been over the last 12 months. So this isn’t winter pressures as normal. It is winter pressures plus the closure of avenues that we would normally be able to take to alleviate that because of COVID. So it’s a full mixture. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 44:33
Thanks very much, Simon. Now we move on to some terton from Jeff. Good afternoon, Sam.
Sam Turton 44:39
As the Miami Air Chief Minister, shouldn’t if we could go back to where were the other day in terms of the tech rollout for the vaccines system. We’ve heard it this week from people that emails have been going into spam folders when they’ve been going out and people turned up for appointments which would be moved and they weren’t. They said they weren’t told what happens if they were told but we’re not gonna get into that. Can we look again at how soon is it going to be possible to have a better tech system behind this? We’ve got a vaccine team doing a fantastic job. But the floors seem to be in the actual organisation of the system behind. David.
David Ashford 45:13
Yeah, well, there has to be a multitude of systems, we have to use the systems that we’ve got some, you can’t design a bespoke IT system overnight, you know, relation to,
Sam Turton 45:24
couldn’t we use them to do this, this is what the whole point
David Ashford 45:26
No, because because Don’t forget, we’ve got to comply with the law as well. Now, the GP primary care records, which is basically what the needs to drive this, because they are the complete medical records, the individual are owned by the GP surgeries in terms of data, the HSE has no legal right to access those, only the GPS can access those and share any data that they wish to. So we can’t have a direct necessarily feed into that. In terms of letters going out. This is the over 70s. And the extremely clinical vulnerable, as I said, that was to do with a problem with the search facility. And that is being corrected. We have had no other problems with the other age cohorts. As far as I’m aware, we were getting the over 60 fives manually checked to make sure that there wasn’t an issue there. But I have not been made aware of any that have been identified. So we’ve got to be very careful. I’d also like to say you can’t really have an automated booking system behind because it’s dependent upon vaccine levels coming in. And that changes daily. So if we book a load of people say four or five weeks in advance, and then it turns out, we don’t get the supply of vaccine we need, we have to then manually cancel those appointments, rebook them or move them. And that can actually end up creating even more work. So the actual most efficient one is people can register online for the vaccination. And then 111 will call them back or email them, or even send them a letter with the actual appointment time and date. Because the vaccine amounts coming in vary. For instance, I think I’ve mentioned at this briefing before, we’ve had the vaccine schedule change four times in one day before. So if we create a whole bespoke booking system, thinking we are getting a supply of vaccine, and then we don’t, that could be for instance, this week, that would have meant nearly 5000 people who thought they were getting a vaccine being cancelled and rebooked, and that actually could potentially lead to even further errors. So 111 only hooks people in and actually gives them their appointment. Once they know the supply of vaccine is guaranteed for that person for that appointment.
Howard Quayle 47:26
I think it’s fair to say before we take the next question, Sam, that no system is going to be perfect. Of course, we want to improve what the service that we provide to people, but I think this is the biggest immunisation programme the Ireland the world has ever taken and to be in the position we are, I think the vast majority of it does work very smoothly. Of course, we’re always going to get the odd hiccup. problem there. But and we can only apologise for that, but no system is infallible. And I think if people look across the look at the bigger picture, it’s worked quite well. But we take on board these concerns. And if there’s any way of tweaking the systems to make it better, then of course, we will do that some. And your next question, Sam,
Sam Turton 48:08
yes, it’s going to the exit strategy, the framework issues in terms of people coming to the island, once we get to the stage where family and friends can call and they say it will be under the same restrictions as residents returning to the island. But realistically, that isn’t going to work is it because for example, my sister lives in Glasgow, she’s not gonna be able to come here and isolate for two weeks, just to be able to see the family for the weekend before she goes home. So how is it actually going to work when this comes forward?
Howard Quayle 48:36
Well, it’s clear if she has to isolate for two weeks on our own time, yeah, unless she’s desperate to see you, that ain’t gonna happen. We have to look at the data near the time to see whether we can say well, maybe and towards the end of May, that you can stay with the family, but that whole family must isolate for the period and talk for a period of time. What you must remember is that until everyone has been vaccinated, just because you’ve been vaccinated, say in the UK, and you’ve come over to them, that doesn’t mean to say that you you’re not carrying COVID-19 that you couldn’t spread it. So until we’re confident that we’ve protected the people of the island, we will have to keep measures in place. What those exact measure exact measures will be. We don’t know yet. But we’re we’re just having to put a marker down that you’re not just gonna be able to rack over onto the island at the beginning of May move freely around and see your family on the island, we will have to have measures in place because whilst we expect to have given everyone in our high risk groups, or at least a first dose, and the vast majority will have obviously had a second one. There will still be the rest of our adult population who will need the vaccination and of course our young people should the vaccines be approved for young people? I don’t know if Dr. You if you’d like to expand on that, please.
Henrietta Ewart 49:53
Yes, I mean, obviously there are a lot of features that will play into reviewing the borders framework. And that will depend on levels of infection across the completion of their vaccine programme, the status of our vaccine programme, and the emerging evidence, which is, you know accruing all the time. So we’re getting clearer about the effects of the vaccine in terms of its impact on whether you get infected and are able to transmit COVID. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 50:24
David, would you like to give it a further comment for Sam? Yeah,
David Ashford 50:26
if I called Chief Minister, it gives me an opportunity to use a phrase I haven’t been able to use for a while some of which is baby steps. And basically, everything we do has to be done in frame phases. Now we recognise that some phases as things release will suit certain people or not suit others. There, I’ve had contact from friends and family desperate to get into the island, who said they would happily do the two weeks or even three weeks isolation, as long as it as long as it then allowed them to see their family. Not everyone is in that situation, people have worked, where they can’t take two weeks off to isolate in the arm, we recognise that, but we’ve got to ensure that what we do is for the safety of the island. And that means that we have to take measures that are proportionate as we move along. So the first stage is allowing people into the island friends and family when we believe it’s safe for that to happen, with isolation, maybe further down the line, then reducing the isolation that they have to actually do for travellers into the island. And then eventually, long, long term. And going back to what was the pre normal in some way. But it has to be done in those phases. We can’t just go for a big bang and release, because that would be absolutely catastrophic. But we do recognise that that will not suit everyone who may want to come to our beautiful island.
Howard Quayle 51:41
Thanks very much, Sam. And last but not least, we have Paul Moulton from Isle of Man television. Good afternoon, Paul faster. My
Paul Moulton 51:48
new my questions are for Mr. Ashford, I think you’re talking about 111 being still under some pressure. Can you take us through this? I believe there’s two rooms is two banks, a lot of people but how many people at any one time are answering those firms?
David Ashford 52:04
Well, at the moment, Paul, that’s within capital office. So I don’t have those numbers. And it’s not run by dhsc. But my understanding is they have radically increased the staffing, they’ve been bringing volunteers in to help as well and to train up. So my understanding certainly from the conversations I’ve had with Cabinet Office, is that those numbers have increased quite dramatically. The simple fact is with the sheer amount of volume, it is always going to be a challenge, with focus trying to keep the vaccination programme going as well, which has to be a national, you know, a national priority. As I say, everything has just come together, that will now start to tail off. Because we will be seeing less and less hopefully, or no in cases and therefore less spread in that way. And the spread will be purely down to people who we already know about in isolation. So that then reduces the pressures on 111. Like I say that this isn’t unusual, or the other countries have seen us as well. The UK has seen pressures on their systems. And I certainly know jersey when they were at the height of their recent outbreak. They were saying it would take up to three days for people to be able to get test results back. And if they had queries that would take that long to be answered.
Paul Moulton 53:16
So you says increased dramatically. Can you give us what it was and what it is? Now as far as you’re aware?
David Ashford 53:21
When I say I don’t have those figures because the HSC isn’t in charge of 111
Paul Moulton 53:25
increase dramatically. So you have some ideas?
David Ashford 53:28
I say Well, what I can say what I mean by increased dramatically is the workload they’re dealing with. So with so the we’ve increased the number of letters they’re dealing with with vaccination. So for instance, the cohort that’s just going out is 7000 letters. We know the number of tests being undertaken daily has gone dramatically up. So for instance, I think yesterday was 500 tests undertaken, we’ve had all the days of that where previously they would have been dealing with maybe 100. So you’re talking numbers trebling, quadrupling or more of the workload to be undertaken. So they have put extra staff in, but we are never with the best will in the world going to be able to give up that they can do things instantly. There is other avenues as well, people do have email addresses that they can potentially send queries to. They also, of course, now can register for the vaccine online using the online form. So there’s things like that that will reduce pressure and give people other avenues rather than having to hop on the phone to 111. It is a difficult time. It’s a frustrating time for many people out there. But what we say is we people do have to bear with us at this time and understand the pressures that exist.
Paul Moulton 54:34
And dispersion is you said there was some technical issues some time ago where they were resolved. So is it working better? Yeah. My
David Ashford 54:39
understanding is there were some technical issues with the line. So again, it was that perfect storm scenario. It all coincided. We’ve been working with Manx Telecom, and my understanding is that those technical issues have now been resolved.
Howard Quayle 54:52
Dr. Hewitt has anything you’d like to add before Paul moves on to his next question.
Unknown Speaker 54:56
No, thank you. Okay. Thanks,
Howard Quayle 54:59
Paul. You know, question
Paul Moulton 55:01
I’ve been hearing situation up at Novus hospital to to case I want to highlight one this, this young lady was an award, and she had no way to get a shower. She had no access to do that. And the family friends were concerned. And secondly, a gentleman was left to use a commode for going to the toilet. And there’s no other option. So he actually discharged himself and he wasn’t a COVID case. Are these exceptions? Are these just what’s coming out? You know, is everything okay? up the nose hospital? You
David Ashford 55:30
manage it? Yeah, as far as I’m aware, everything’s okay. Paul, I can’t comment on things I don’t know about I haven’t been told about. I’d be interested know how a COVID case though, managed to discharge themselves because they’re effectively isolated up at the hospital. So I’m not quite sure how that works. But, but I can’t comment obviously, on individual patient issues publicly anyway. That’d be highly inappropriate for me to do. But I’m not aware of either of those two issues. So I couldn’t comment in general anyway.
Paul Moulton 55:57
But the question is, are they coping? meaning is everything as far as you’re aware? Okay, out there.
David Ashford 56:02
Yeah, no, the hospital is under pressures. We have staffing pressures, of course, because we’ve got stuff in isolation, exactly the same as anyone else. The staff are doing an absolutely brilliant job exactly the same as they did 12 months ago. And again, I’ll take it as an opportunity to thank all of the staff across health and social care. And all of our key workers who’ve been doing an absolutely wonderful job keeping things running, we’ve had to adapt the hospital that has meant turning certain things off, that’s meant creating a COVID ward in order to be able to cope. But the measures that we had in place last year, we can go back to and have been moving back to and as far as I am aware they are working. But like I say individual cases I can’t comment on publicly anyway. But those two cases I’ve specifically can’t because I’ve not heard of them before.
Paul Moulton 56:46
Thank you. I’ll see you Sunday for more questions. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 56:48
Okay, Paul, but if you have any of the details, and they’re happy to be shared with those if you want to pass, pass it on today, but I’m sure he’ll look into those individual concerns. Definitely. Okay. Well, thank you all very much for your questions. And thank you for everything you’re doing. Right now. The message is simple. Stay at home. This is the best thing you can do for your island and the essential services that keep us safe. The more people that stay at home, the quicker we can bring this outbreak under control. It is in all of our hands. If you do have to go out please wear a face covering as much as you possibly can. If you feel any symptoms, please self isolate and call 111 as soon as possible. respect the rules and we will get through this. Please make the right decisions for you, your family and your island. Thank you all very much.
Unknown Speaker 57:37