This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government’s Coronavirus Media Briefing held on Thursday 4 March 2021. In particular, for any legal guidance, you should seek advice from official sources.
You should not rely heavily upon it — it is transcribed by an automated speech recognition service, and I cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any local Manx words (especially in Gaelic) are more likely to be inaccurate. Also, the automated speech recognition service often converts proper nouns incorrectly (especially the spoken words “Isle of Man” to “Ireland” or “all of man”).
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Howard Quayle 0:00
Well, good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for joining us today. Here with me at the podium is the Minister for Education, sport and culture. And on zoom, we have the minister of health and social care, and our Director of Public Health. Let me start by handing over to minister Ashford for an update on testing numbers from the last 24 hours. And I know David has an update on vaccinations and other matters a bit later, David.
David Ashford 0:25
Thank you, Chief Minister, the total number of tests undertaken now stands at 34,109. The total tests concluded is 34,097, meaning that at the time the snapshot was taken, there was 12. Results outstanding. The new number of new COVID cases identified in the last 24 hours is 36. That brings the total case in account to 546. And we have 106 active cases of those 106 active cases two are in the hospital of the active case, numbers. 21 of the cases are from an unknown source. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 1:07
Thank you very much, David. Now, as you can see, we’ve had a significant increase in positive tests. As I said yesterday, this is what we would have expected to happen. Now that we have our circuit breaker in place, risk of house to house transmission should be significantly reduced. But we will continue to see cases developed as the virus incubates and shows itself. This is why avoiding house to house transmission is so incredibly important, and why we need you to stay at home as much as possible. I really cannot emphasise that enough. I will hand over to our Director of Public Health for her update in a moment, I did just want to mention a change that I know some of you have noticed relating to publication of low risk venues. With the number of cases we now have. And given that we are now staying at home, the need to publish low risk venues has gone for the moment. with low risk venues. We were previously asking people to be vigilant and call 111. If they develop symptoms. With an outbreak, we of course need everyone to do this, regardless of where they have been. If there are venues that do pose a high risk, then of course, we will let you know as soon as possible. Doctor, you it’s Can I hand over to you now.
Henrietta Ewart 2:28
Thank you, Chief Minister. Update mainly for me today is around the latest batch of genomic sequencing results, which we have just received. Those include results on positive tests sent over to the Liverpool lab up until the end of last week. So that includes the cases we knew about them which at that stage were all linked in time place in person with the important travel case that set off the current cluster. The genomic analysis indicates that all of those cases indeed are related, they will track back to that one original case, it will be interesting to see what results we get back on the later cases that emerged after the weekend or during the weekend and after where there isn’t that link in person time and place to that cluster. But clearly, the expectation, given the time relationship, if not the person in place relationship is that they will all be part of the same cluster linking back to the same case. So I think that indicates as Chief Ministers just said, the way in which this spreads through mixing. Another piece of information I can share on that which makes the point further is the age range of the cases that we have to date, which are overwhelmingly in the children and young person and then working age adults groups. And within that 40 of the current cases are in the age range five to 19. So the root of spread from what we know from contact tracing is likely initially from household mixing, and then some social events and then on into the schools. So that is why we’ve seen that pattern of transmission and the circuit breaker We will now expect to be cutting that off, but it will take a while until we see that certainly over the next few days and into the next week. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 4:32
Thank you very much, Dr. Hewitt. Now I’ve spoken before about the need to protect our most vulnerable, our health and social care sector and our vaccination programme. And this remains front and centre in our thinking and our planning and not the pressure that we are mindful of is the need to protect our other key services. As of this morning, we had about 500 people identified as close contacts over 200 In just the last 24 hours, we know that if these numbers rise, this could impact on essential services across the island. Whether this is our emergency services, essential retail, or other things that keep our island safe and keep us going. This is why it is critically important to stay at home whenever you can. And as the Minister of Education and sport and culture said yesterday, this includes our schools, we do need to keep school places for those who really need them. If we cannot sustain the schools, because cases creep into them, then the impact on our critical workers and our most vulnerable children would be considerable. Because of this, the council of ministers met this morning, just and decided to make some changes to the criteria of people who can access our schools during this circuit break lockdown. And I will invite the Minister of Education, sport and culture to update us on this now, Alex.
Alex Allinson 6:01
Thank you, Chief Minister. The increase in the number of cases is a cause for concern and reemphasize as well why all of us have to take the current situation seriously, and do the right thing. Over the last 12 months, we’ve always strived to keep score places available for vulnerable children and those of essential workers. At the beginning of the first lockdown there were nearly 300 students attending the school hubs. This rose to 600 at the beginning of the January circuit breaker, but by yesterday there were approximately 800 students attending our schools. This is putting extra pressure on our education service. In order to keep our schools safe. We have brought in a range of measures, including including the use of social distancing, masks, enhanced cleaning, and pupils learning in bubbles. But this time around the virus has entered our schools. We’ve seen whole year groups needing to be isolated and tested in several locations, and the increasing numbers of children wanting places increases the risk of more infections. This is why we feel it is vitally important to continue to act in the interest of safety for both students and staff. The council of ministers met this morning and discussed a range of options to further protect education and our frontline services. changes will be made to the current entitlement for school places to ensure we can continue to provide remote learning and teaching in schools for those with no other option. So for Monday, schools are only accessible to vulnerable children and the children of essential workers only whilst the essential worker is out of the home working and only when there is no one else at home to look after your child. In addition, from Monday, we will be removing the financial services sector from the essential workers list. We ask all those affected, discuss with their managers how they can switch to working from home. I’m sorry, we’ve had to bring in these extra measures, but hope the parents can appreciate the seriousness of the current situation and the need to protect our children and our education service. To reiterate, the safest place to be at the moment is at home. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 8:19
And thank you very much Alex for that update. We all need to do everything we can to protect all of our critical services by staying at home. The other thing that is absolutely crucial over the next couple of weeks and beyond is that if you do have any symptoms at all, that may be COVID then please do not ignore them. Call 111 and get tested. You’ve heard from the Director of Public Health about how easy this virus spreads every day that someone is positive and isn’t aware of the fact that means risk to our community. Another of our key services is our 111 and contact tracing teams. The volume of work at the moment is enormous. Please only call them if you really need to. If we have said we will contact you we will the team has now called and booked tests for those related to the st Ninian’s year eight group and Bhalla Salah today they should have done so with the st Ninian’s year seven groups and may have already done so please only call 111 if you need to report symptoms for the rest of today and tomorrow. We are pausing bookings for vaccinations so that the 111 team can focus on testing and contact tracing. Minister Ashford will go into a little bit more detail on this in a moment. Also, please don’t forget that the community support line at 686262 is up and running. It is there for any questions related to the circuit break and if you need support or advice, but they too are experiencing a significant volume of calls, full details of the circuit breaker lockdown and the rules that all of us need to follow are email@example.com forward slash COVID-19. There are all the numbers on our website for questions relating to financial support and business support. Let me pause now and hand over to the Minister for health and social care for his updates. David,
David Ashford 10:27
thank you, Chief Minister, in relation to the 111 service for two for the rest of the day and tomorrow, we are pausing people being able to register for the vaccine. To be absolutely clear, that does not mean the vaccine programme will slow down because the we have already got enough registrations to cover the bookings next week. When we step up the numbers to vaccinating people up to 1000 people a day, that those are those slots are already covered. So there will be no delay in people when they do register, it will begin to register again on Saturday in being able to get their vaccine, no one will get their vaccine later than they would have anyway, as a result of this. In relation to vaccine numbers. I know there’s been some queries about the low level yesterday that was undertaken. This is not unusual, and it has been explained at briefings before. But it’s a message that’s always worth repeating. The doses delivered yesterday were to those in care homes and also second doses, which actually have to be delivered at a set date. There will always be days where the number of vaccinations will appear low as a result, and yesterday was one of those days. The main reason for that is the most efficient way of delivering the vaccine is to have days of high throughput through the vaccination hopes. As with most weeks to date, this has meant the vaccination hopes operates in three days a week and doing large volumes of patients. That does not mean any less vaccinations are being delivered. We are doing three days of high volumes rather than seven days of medium volumes. If we operated seven days a week, the same amount of vaccine will be delivered as is being delivered in those three days just spread out over the seven days. We can only vaccinate to supply and we must ensure that we have enough stock available to do those who are coming up to their second dose, which is what actually locks in the protection. Speaking of vaccine supply for next week, the supplies into the island, as was always expected and communicated at the start of the rollout increase. That means subject to those supplies being received as expected them for several weeks the stores the hubs will start operating five days a week, vaccinating around 1000 people per day, with both first and second doses. It was also mentioned the other day about us being likely to receive additional vaccine, more than originally been expected. This has now been confirmed. And towards the end of March on top of the increased deliveries we’re already expecting for that month, we will be saving up to an extra 10,000 extra vaccine doses more than we were expecting. The other thing I want to touch on is to repeat something I mentioned at the press conference the other day, anyone who has previously been asked to shield should do so again. Those who have had their vaccine should still shield it takes time for the effectiveness of the vaccine to build up in people’s system. So those who have previously been shield as should shield again, regardless of whether or not they have had the vaccine.
David Ashford 13:34
Another topic we’ve touched on previously, but again, I think it is worth reiterating, because we are still seeing people attending Colquitt This is vaccine consent. We are still seeing cases of relatives bringing people who do not have the mental capacity to consent to be vaccinated to vaccine appointments. Those that do not have the ability to consent for themselves need to go through the best interests process, which involves their GP medically confirming that the person is appropriate for vaccination. Relatives can’t do this on the person’s behalf. If someone without capacity to consent is brought to the vaccination Hall. And the process is not being followed for best interests, then they will not and cannot be vaccinated, the legal process of best interests must be concluded by their GP before any vaccination takes place. The other important thing to mention is that people cannot just turn up with the hopes to try and book vaccine appointments. The hopes do not have the ability to do that. You can only book an appointment via 111. I know there is a high demand at the moment and people are keen to get registered. But as per what the chief minister has just said that all demands on one World War and we and we also we are pausing the registration for a couple of days to allow those demands to level So although it may take time for people to contact one on one, it will not mean that they will get their vaccine any earlier than if they had been in contact today. We have here we have been working for some time also on the ability for people once they have received their letter of registration to register online for the vaccine, they will be able to fill out an online application form for submission, and 111 will then call them back with their appointment details. And I hope that I will be able to announce further information on this digital solution to allow people to register early next week. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Howard Quayle 15:38
And thank you very much, David. It is time to go to questions from the media. But just before I do, I want to go back to the question of our exit strategy. We have not forgotten it. We hope to publish it early next week and take you through the detail. I’m sorry, it has taken longer than we had hoped. But one of the reasons for the delay is a positive one relating to confirmation and the significant increase in vaccination deliveries later on this month. This of course has an impact on key moments of our exit. Let’s go to questions from the media. And first I have Tim Glover from Manx radio. Good afternoon, Tim faster. My
Tim Glover 16:16
mastermind, obviously concerning figures. 36 says the highest num daily number we’ve had since the pandemic began. So let’s just want to return to what you said at the weekend about the new symptoms of vaccination being updated on the government website. It’s still not Can we just clear up what the symptoms are? Because it’s vital, isn’t it at this current time that anyone has any of the symptoms associated more with the camp variants, report it and get something done.
Howard Quayle 16:49
Okay, well, we’ll go straight over to Dr. UITS. To give a full update on that.
Henrietta Ewart 16:54
Thank you, Chief Minister. I’m not sure where this claim that the Kent variant has different symptoms is coming from, because it’s not known to me. It’s not known to Public Health England, and it hasn’t factored into any change in symptom definition in any of the national or international communicable disease control agencies. So I really don’t know where that one has come from. In terms of clinical case definition. That’s the list of symptoms for COVID. There is no one standard international national definition. There are lots of different ones who has one us CDC has a different one. The European Centre for disease control, which we’ve followed is a different one again, and Public Health England, UK Government is different again, Guernsey as I think has been said has a very long list of symptoms. That’s one they developed locally back in the summer. And they based it off the back of a survey they undertook amongst people who had been confirmed positive in Guernsey and identified all the symptoms that they remembered having had at the time that they presented for a test. So you know, there is a huge variety of definitions. None of them are strongly correlated in such a way as you can say, you pick up X number of cases with this definition versus y with that definition. Another thing that no symptomatic case definition is ever going to pick up for obvious reasons, is asymptomatic cases. So I think you need to think or one needs to think very carefully what one is trying to do by case definition. If what you’re trying to do is cast your testing net as widely as possible across the population to do case finding, then actually the best way to do that is to do asymptomatic population screening, not try and widen your net through constantly widening the possible symptoms. Okay, thank you.
Howard Quayle 18:56
Thank you very much, doctor here at your next question, Tim.
Unknown Speaker 19:00
Thank you. And
Tim Glover 19:00
just for the health minister, we forwarded on a number of contacts yesterday regarding people who were missing from lists for vaccination and maybe other issues as well, just to highlight to you which I hope you found helpful. We’ve had further communications today. And I just want to ask, Are you confident that the data you have you’re communicating with people who are still alive, still on the island and are in the right categories of vulnerabilities?
David Ashford 19:34
Thanks, Tim. Well, actually, I can give an update on that. That’s perfect timing, literally breaking news, which I’ve had in the last 20 minutes or so before I came on to this briefing, is I asked the department to undertake an inquiry. Thank you for sharing the information that you had Tim It was very helpful, because it helped us get to the bottom of that. There was an issue with the EMA switches the system that the GPS news has been an issue with the search criteria within that system. So it has thrown up that there is issues around the over 70 cohort. Those are being investigated, we have asked all the GP practices on the island to go back through and recheck their lists. Because it does appear there will be a cohort in that group that have been missed for which I can only apologise. Due to the fact the search system hasn’t worked correctly. I’ve asked for it to be checked before against the cohort that’s going out now, which is the 65 to 69 year olds to make sure that search criteria is correct. And we have also asked the GPS to go through and manually do a check for those who are in the extremely clinically vulnerable category, which has also been vaccinated this time to make sure that those records are correct. So that is being undertaken. Now. Again, I need to emphasise though that this will not necessarily slow down anyone getting the vaccine in those cohorts, because the numbers that we are doing vaccination wise are increasing. And the final letters for those cohorts have only just gone out. But thank you very much for raising it term and bringing the problem to our attention.
Howard Quayle 21:06
Okay, thank you very much for that. Now, we moved to Alex Bell from BBC Isle of Man. Good afternoon, Alex faster. My Good afternoon.
Unknown Speaker 21:14
I just like to know how many people are currently in self isolation on the island, please.
Howard Quayle 21:20
Right. Doctor, you do have that number.
Henrietta Ewart 21:22
I will in just a moment when I’ve managed to get my other device up or running.
Henrietta Ewart 21:34
Okay, currently in self isolation.
Unknown Speaker 21:43
Henrietta Ewart 21:44
of 1579 I have here. But I think I have another figure also for numbers associated with the current cluster. Let me look up that as well.
Henrietta Ewart 22:10
Okay, so related to the current cluster, currently identified in isolating high risk contacts are 477.
Unknown Speaker 22:20
So should that be taken as a total the 1500 number? Is it closer to 2000? Total?
Unknown Speaker 22:25
No, no, the
Henrietta Ewart 22:25
477 will be a subset of the 1500 Dialpad, 1300.
Unknown Speaker 22:31
And more numbers, I’m afraid for my second question. I’m just wondering, possibly for yourself, doctor you at all for their health minister, what the current capacity is for daily testing whether it’s still close to 800, as it was a number of months ago, and whether there is any capability for that to be increased during this surge period?
David Ashford 22:56
Yeah, I’ll comment if I may on that one. In relation to that, Alex. Yeah, the number is that is staffed up to as the 800 a day. We can go further than that, if required, and there are contingency plans to allow us to staff up. But we do have to say that once we get past that number, we would have to start turning all the services are for reducing services in order to be able to stop that. But we are still staffed up to do that number of tests.
Unknown Speaker 23:22
Are you close to implementing that emergency provision?
David Ashford 23:25
At the moment? No. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 23:28
Thanks very much, Alex. Now we move on to Simon Richardson from business 365. Good afternoon, Simon faster.
Simon Richardson 23:35
My afternoon, Chief Minister. Firstly, following on from Tim’s question earlier, we have been approached by a 70 year old lady who’s on regular dialysis for serious health conditions, which attack her immune response. So presumably she will now get her appointment for a job quite soon.
David Ashford 23:59
It would depend upon what what the GP has classified or medical condition as because we’ve got we have to remember I think this is where some confusion is set in. The vulnerable groups are across two categories. So there was the category four group which we’re currently on, which is the extremely clinically vulnerable. Now it sounds but I’m no medic, it sounds from the way you described, that would potentially be a group this lady falls them. So she will be picked up by the review. But equally, those who are just clinically vulnerable, they fall in group four, and that is the categorization we move on to next after we’ve done the over 60 fives. So that is that’s where some confusion has set in around people as to whether they’re extremely clinically vulnerable, or just, frankly, just clinically vulnerable. But yes, she will be picked up in the review. And we have asked all the GP surgeries to go back over their lists and manually check for those patients.
Simon Richardson 24:54
Thank you Now, it was revealed today that it’s overwhelmingly children, young people For and working age adults that seem to be affected by this this latest outbreak. Does that point to any particular mutation being the most likely cause?
Howard Quayle 25:10
Well, I think we know it’s the Kent variant that’s on the island at the moment. I don’t know. Dr. Hewitt, if you’d like to expand on that, please.
Henrietta Ewart 25:16
Yes, we do know it’s the Kent variant. I mean, the reason that it’s young people, children, young people and working age adults, may well reflect patterns of mixing. If older people have not been mixing to the same extent they’re not out in the workplace, they haven’t been at some of the social events where spread is taking place. That will be why they aren’t so represented in the figures. And we may also, and this is just hypothesis and conjecture, we may also be seeing the beginnings of a protective effect for them from vaccination. But yes, this is all camp variant. And it’s the same lineage and it all tracks back on the cases we have so far to one important case,
Simon Richardson 25:59
is it becoming more likely day by day that locked down will be extended beyond three weeks, would you say?
Howard Quayle 26:07
Well, I suppose it’s too early to say obviously, the numbers we felt would be significant at the start, because that’s what our colleagues and friends and Guernsey and Jones jersey experienced. It’s too early to say it is looking at it, it may well have to be extended. But let’s wait and see. I don’t want to put a date on things that could well be there in a week’s time. The numbers are down considerably. And we can come out of this on time. But let’s wait and see. It really is too early to say regarding that Simon at this moment in time. Right. Thanks, Simon. Next we have Sam Turton from Jeff. Good afternoon, Sam faster. My
Sam Turton 26:44
estimate Chief Minister, given the importance that we’ve seen from Public Health England terms of the first job, I wonder family, such Patel’s of the new jobs that we are going to be getting, how many will be prioritise to first doses? And secondly, will this move the target forward of April 19? So maybe they’ll Sue out on that for people of the age of 50.
Howard Quayle 27:07
David Ashford 27:08
Yeah, thank you, Chief Minister, that will in terms of the target. First of all, we’re being cautious around that. Hopefully, it may well, but we want to make sure that the other delivery schedules that we are expecting go as planned as well. In terms of first dose we have already prioritised first dose, we’re now doing second doses at the 10 week mark. I think what confuses people sometimes is when they go on to the vaccination dashboard, and they see the stock held in hand. Now, we only ever retain stock for roughly around about in terms of retention of around about seven to 10 days, because we are in islands. And there is always the chance that due to weather or various other reasons there will be disruption in supply. So we’ve got to have a contingency there to ensure that even when we move to the 10 weeks, people can still get their second dose on time. So I think people are being thrown by that. Because also, of course within the stock on hand, is included those who are already booked for their first dose in the next week or two weeks. So that has to be taken into account. So when people look at the stock and habit see 11,000 that’s not the case of 11,000 vaccines that are being held back. It includes all those who are actually booked for a vaccine already. So we just need to be careful around the figures. So we are already doing that we are already prioritising, and we are pushing forward first doses.
Sam Turton 28:30
just hypothetically, do we have a maximum number we could vaccinate him one? A number of those that could be given in one day? Or is that determined by how many we have in stock or by staffing numbers?
David Ashford 28:41
Well, it’s a may it’s a mixture to be perfectly honest sample, what would happen is we vaccinate everyone in one day and then we stop because there is no more supply.
Sam Turton 28:51
And just secondly, people ask us about in terms of results, obviously we had again, for most of this week, we’ve had late night results, which obviously from that can’t be helped but just in terms of snapshots and terms of when results will be given based on results have been taken today, how soon would we be able to expect more results to say later on tonight is that unavoidable? There’s actually a situation that we’re in,
David Ashford 29:14
it’s completely unavoidable the lab continuously is functioning and I want to put on record again my thanks to the entire lab team. They are working long hours and very stressful environments, ensuring that they’re trying to keep this island safe. And the results filter through throughout the day and also throughout the evening. So for instance, as Minister for Health I’m still sometimes getting updates at half 11 quarter 12 at night in relation to cases that might have been identified so the lab rooms continuously go on and so it can’t be helped what time those results come through.
Howard Quayle 29:51
Thanks very much Sam now we move on to Paul Bolton from Allah mon television. Good afternoon, Paul faster my
Paul Moulton 29:57
without him Can I just check it you say no long Will you be reporting on low risk places is that’s not going to be reported by you to the public? Can you confirm that?
Howard Quayle 30:07
Yeah, just to confirm, we are in lockdown. Now, Paul, and therefore people won’t be going out to areas, we will obviously be telling everyone about how high risk venues but people should presume. And the minute they see any symptoms, they should be automatically calling 111, irrespective of whether they’ve been but I’m sure Dr. Ewart will put it over far better and more succinctly than I have. Dr. urut.
Unknown Speaker 30:32
Thank you, Chief Minister, I’ll
Henrietta Ewart 30:33
try. The key issue here is that if you’re identified as a person who is likely to be a high risk contact, we would not never have put that out, you know, as a press briefing, or publicise it on the website, we actually go direct to those people. Now, as the chief minister has said, with circuit breaker, most venues aren’t going to be options to have been in any way, thinking of, you know, hospitality, and so on, that clearly leaves other ones such as workplaces, which again, we would usually do on the basis of who are the high risk contacts in there. If the workplace has been properly socially distanced God appropriate working from home policies in place, it shouldn’t really go beyond that. And there shouldn’t be very many of them even within that the high risk bit. So that’s not going to be such an issue in terms of the casual contact, low risk type venue, you know, where your interest goes at such and such time, etc. The issue there, as Chief Minister has said, is that actually with community transmission, all of us are at risk all the time of being infected. And therefore, rather than worrying about were you in such and such a pace at such and such time, what you need to be thinking of more is, have you got symptoms? And if so, contacting 111, press, swab and self isolating while you wait, thank you, okay,
Paul Moulton 32:04
you’re gonna get to because it can be shops, because obviously, in the lockdown, the shops are still open, and therefore there could be a risk, but we won’t know about it. Now, even if it’s low risk, correct.
Henrietta Ewart 32:15
The shops are socially distanced now, which they weren’t before, which takes that element of risk to a mitigation. And the result of that is that after careful deliberation on this, we concluded that actually, it’s far better that everybody remains persistently vigilant, because we’re all at risk all the time, rather than actually getting people to focus on venues and potentially coming away with a false reassurance.
Paul Moulton 32:44
My second question is about schools. Obviously, we hearing from you that this is definitely a place of interest. Now, with the younger generation. I know, the key workers, you said are going to be segregated more with some social distancing. But it’s not a case now for doing these rapid lateral tests or something of that on the keyworker children everyday. And especially obviously, there’s some differences with the teachers because of the exposure that they may be getting, is it not some way of giving a better snapshot and finding those cases out sooner rather than later?
Howard Quayle 33:14
Well, before I bring in the minister and then talk to you at on, I know, I know, it’s one of her favourite topics, is these rapid tests. We do offer offer tests to all teachers who are working in the hubs, first and foremost, whether they are showing symptoms or not that is there for them. So with that, I’ll hand over to Alex who might want to expand and then Dr. Yu is on the her opinion on these fast lateral flow tests. Yeah. But
Alex Allinson 33:40
Paul, it’s a very good question. Obviously, in the United Kingdom, they’ve reopened schools completely, although it steps their hope during a pandemic. And so they’ve brought in home testing for children, I’m using lateral flow tests. Now, we’ve discussed this previously, natural flow tests are useful, but they’re not a yes or no, they’re just taking a result of a certain period of time a snapshot. And also they’re if they’re actually their efficacy is quite low, it’s about 60%, looking at the various studies that came out of Liverpool, so by depending on those in terms of getting your child into school, is fraught with problems because they don’t actually say that that child is safe The following day, or even on that day that they’ve had the test. What we’ve always relied upon on the Isle of Man is PCR testing, which is far more sensitive, far more effective. And actually, this swabbing techniques rather than having a parent have to do it, which can be very difficult with your own child. We use professionals who are trained in swabbing to do that. There’s the chief minister has said we have expanded the access to I’m testing for any asymptomatic teacher, or person who works in a school to provide that we are not bringing in mandatory testing for students at the moment. What we’re trying to do is control the number of students going into schools. We are in a circuit break lockdown, try to get on top of this situation. And when we can then open up, obviously, we’ll be looking at various testing regimes. And I know the doctor, you it’s been looking at the latest research in terms of lateral flow testing, and also mass testing. But I must stress that at the moment, what we’re trying to do is control and eliminate the virus on the Isle of Man, rather than move to sort towards mitigation, which is the case in the United Kingdom. So I don’t know whether you’d like to comment on that not to us.
Henrietta Ewart 35:30
Thank you, Minister. That’s absolutely right. So I definitely agree with everything you’ve just said there. The issue is the difference between elimination and mitigation. I think obviously, as we move forward, and as the vaccination programmes complete, we will be having to review our position and ultimately coming to an arrangement that allows us to live with the virus in the long term. And at that point, it may be that the use of these lateral flow tests may become relevant in certain settings and certain groups, it certainly looks as though the accuracy of them is improving as we get into sort of second and third generation versions of these tests. And in fact, I was discussing that with laboratory colleagues earlier this afternoon. So it’s something we’re definitely keeping under review. And that we will be looking at, I think, to see what place it may play when we get to more of a mitigation approach. But at the moment, while we’re trying to get back to elimination, for the reasons that minister Alison Allinson has just clearly gone through, they don’t add anything to our current approach. Thank you
Paul Moulton 36:41
by saying, How often do you test teachers? Because he says it’s a snapshot? So you’d have to everyday, wouldn’t you? You can’t be doing that.
Howard Quayle 36:47
It’s voluntary basis. If the teachers feel they would like a test that’s there. It’s not every day to the best of my knowledge, Alex, that correct?
Alex Allinson 36:54
That’s very true. I mean, obviously, if somebody’s symptomatic, absolutely test them. But what we’ve done is tried to respond to some of the concerns of teachers and other frontline workers, whether they be in health and social care, or other fields, that that if they if they want to have a test done, and for reassurance, particularly because they’re concerned about taking something back to their household, we will provide that as much as possible. But what we’re not doing is routinely testing everyone because as you say, a test today that’s negative, only gives you that that snapshot in time, it doesn’t say that you’re going to be negative for the rest of the week. And so that’s why we’re trying to emphasise the need for people to stay at home to reduce the numbers of children actually going into schools so we can get on top of the situation as soon as possible.
Howard Quayle 37:39
Thank you, Paul. Next, we have Helen McKenna from Alabama newspapers. Good afternoon, Helen faster. My
Helen McKenna 37:46
afternoon ministers. My question is also for the Education Minister, our teachers who have been in contact with pupils of QE two year seven, being asked to isolate, I think some of the teachers are saying that the information that’s been provided so far hasn’t been very clear. Can you just clarify that for me,
Unknown Speaker 38:04
Alex Allinson 38:05
Indeed we’ve got different situations and different locations. With QE two, as you know, overnight, two year seven pupils were identified as being positive. For that reason 171 students have been asked to self isolate, and we take our lead from public health in the contact tracing team. And from their point of view, there was no obvious risk to teachers and staff at QE two. And so they haven’t been asked to self isolate. The situation was very different about a cellar school where we ended up unfortunately having to ask all the staff there to self isolate, and all the pupils as well. So what we’re doing is is really looking at the individual cases, the risk assessment is provided by the contact tracing team and the public health department to respond proportionately to all of these risks and try to get on top of the situation.
Helen McKenna 38:56
Thank you. My second question is about the resource for COVID 111. So what resources have been diverted to deal with the high amounts of calls to the service as obviously the Health Minister mentioned before? And that some people are saying that they haven’t had they haven’t been able to book their vaccinations? And so can you just clarify and health minister please, if people who are Judah vaccinations should they wait a while before they call up?
David Ashford 39:25
Yes, so I can clarify completely how, as I said, Chief Minister said in his opening statement, and then I repeated, people are not going to be able to register for a vaccine until Saturday, we are postponing that until Saturday. But that will not delay people being able to get the vaccine because we already have people registered for next week, who will more one will be ringing back and booking in. So they would not have got their vaccine any quicker. Anyway, as a result of this slight pause to allow 111 to catch up on all the things we have increased the manpower to 111 and we continue to do so but what One of the things of course, that one on one has had to do is we have seen multiple school issues with multiple year groups, multiple families having to isolate and are one more, one has had to treat that as a priority in contacting those families arranging tests, and that is on a much larger scale than anything really you couldn’t be called a potentially anticipated or you would see a normal volume times for the vaccination programme is not affected in any way we will be continuing to vaccinate the numbers we expect it to vaccinate It is simply the fact that no one will be able to register from this point until Saturday morning. After that, they will be able to register and they will get the vaccine exactly when they would have anyway because we already have next week for registration for the bookings. Okay,
Howard Quayle 40:47
thank you very much, Helen, I think you can say we are team have faced the perfect storm with having year groups from the biggest Primary School on the island, at in, in the region there. And it’s just one of those things, but I have to put on record my thanks to the contact tracing team for the phenomenal job that they’ve done when you consider the volumes that they’ve had to do in a very short window of time. And that’s probably one of the reasons obviously why our 111 team have experienced the problems and people trying to get through to that number have have experienced I think it’s a very sensible move for people just to back off from ringing if you’re wanting to book an appointment for today and tomorrow. You’re not going to be any later or delayed as a result. And it just gives the team the chance to catch up from what has been an incredibly busy time for them. So last but not least, we have Leanne cook from three FM Good afternoon, Leanne faster my
Unknown Speaker 41:44
Good afternoon. My first question is actually from member of the public. They want to know why have people who attended a gig at the hydro hotel last Friday been instructed to self isolate for those who went to the bridge in that seat at the weekend. Haven’t considering positive Coronavirus. Coronavirus cases have come from both venues.
Howard Quayle 42:04
Okay, maybe doctor, you might be able to answer that one.
Henrietta Ewart 42:08
Yes, thank you. That’s based on the contact traces assessment of the environments in the two places, which was somewhat different. So the nature of the contact for the people that were present at the band event of the hotel is different from that of people who just work in the pub environment. And that’s why the different levels of risk have been identified.
Howard Quayle 42:33
I think it’s safe to say Leon that there’s not a one size fits all our teams look at the situation. So if you’ve got a band situation, haven’t been to that sort of type of content for a long time given work. But if you get out you’re pretty crammed onto with people. Whereas if you’re in a pub, you’re spread out a little bit more. And as a result, our team will have made a different call. So they they use their professional opinion based on experience for different situations. But I can understand the concern from people. Your next question, Leanne.
Unknown Speaker 43:05
And my second question is for the Education Minister, and you mentioned before that financial services have been removed from the keyworker list, if a parent isn’t quite sure if that is that is them or they find themselves in the grey area who can they get in touch with for advice
Unknown Speaker 43:21
Alex Allinson 43:22
what we’ll be doing overnight is producing a press release and publicising the changes to the eligibility criteria we have. on the COVID website, we had a clear definition of what our essential workers and it previously had members who work in financial services. As I’ve said, we are facing pressure with our with our schools, we have ballasts our school closed completely at the time for the time being, we also have a large number of teachers are self isolating. And we’re also trying to provide high quality remote learning to all our students. So what we’re asking at the moment is everyone who can keep their children at home to do so we’re keeping the places at schools available for those frontline key workers. But for those people who work in the financial services sector, we’re asking them to talk to their managers because by by Monday, they won’t be eligible for a place at one of our schools. Unfortunately, we’re going to be prioritising those for vulnerable children and the children of key workers who work for instance, in our health and social care sectors.
Unknown Speaker 44:26
Okay, thank you.
Howard Quayle 44:27
Thank you very much. It’s regrettable that we’ve got to do this. But I think we are seeing a significant increase in children being presented to school, certainly compared with the first outbreak and even a few 100 more compared with the circuit breaker that we held in January. So we’ve got to do this to protect our teachers and to protect those children that really need to be there to enable their family to deliver the really important key services that we all need to carry on with our lives. So thank you everyone involved there. Well, thank you very much for those questions. And thank you for doing everything that you are. 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 your hands. If you do have to go out please wear a face covering as much as possible. 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 our island. Thank you all very much