This is a very rough and unverified transcript of the Isle of Man Government’s Coronavirus Media Briefing held on Tuesday 2 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 morning, everyone. And thank you for joining us today. As you will have seen from last night, I do have a series of important messages to share with you today. Our director of public health is here with us on in person, and the minister of health and social care is on zoom. As will be joining us on zoom. On Sunday, I spoke to you all about the uncertainty that remained around two unexplained cases. I have to tell you now that over the course of the day yesterday, we have had further cases that have caused us concern. The council of ministers met on a number of occasions throughout Monday to review the evidence as it developed and to ensure we had plans ready should the position deteriorate further. Over Sunday evening and into Monday, we saw another two separate cases. As contact tracing developed, there was some information that may have linked them. This would have given us a better understanding of the source. And then yesterday evening, we saw a further two cases identified where the source is not known. One of these, as I’m sure you will have seen is in a school setting. We received confirmation of this late last night, and the Council of Ministers immediately held an emergency meeting in response to this. There is of course still a great deal that we don’t know. But what is clear is that as we said on Sunday, there is transmission in our community that we cannot see and that we do not understand. We can now see that it is not an isolated couple of cases, but more widespread. And this concerns us for a number of reasons. It concerns us because our hospital is still facing winter challenges and has very little spare capacity at the moment. It concerns us because we want North we want nothing to jeopardise our vaccination programme that is about to enter a new phase with significant supplies due to arrive onto the island throughout this month. It concerns us because we have seen what has happened elsewhere. When community transmission is left on checked. I would also stress that we are very mindful of the significant cost to any form of circuit breaker lockdown. I do not just mean the obvious financial and economic costs, but the human health and welfare costs. At this point, I’d like to hand over to Dr. Ewart to give you an update on the current position as it has developed. Dr Ewart.
Henrietta Ewart 2:30
Thank you, I want to talk really about the change from believing that we were dealing with one controllable cluster to the shift that we now have to understanding that we clearly do have wider community transmission. So we go back till Friday until Friday, although we were seeing a steady increase in cases. All of those were related to high risk contacts of cases already known to be linked to the current cluster. The two cases that emerged on Friday evening couldn’t be so linked. But in both those cases, apart from household contacts, other wider contacts had been really quite limited, apart from a few low risk locations of interest. So again, although we couldn’t tie those cases definitively well at all back to the cluster, there was a lower level of concern about the wider implication for onward transmission. Things then began to change on Sunday with the identification of the third community case, which didn’t link to either of the two others or to the cluster. Then on Monday, we identified a close contact of that case. But at that point, there was evidence to indicate that that in fact, might give us a link back to a venue associated with the cluster. So it was really not until last night and the emergence of two further completely unrelated cases, that the level of concern and the level of risk definitively rose. And in that case, those two additional cases have confirmed considerable spread in terms of geography. And also in terms of the different demographics of the case individuals involved. The timing still makes it likely that they are in fact linked to the cluster. But whether we will ever be able to definitively understand the missing links, that is the people through whom transmission must have happened to take it to where it’s got now. We may never know so clearly, we will still be following all the usual best practice for contact tracing, but there is a much wider community spread issue out there now which we need to respond to. Thank you
Howard Quayle 5:00
projections, we hope that we will have given a first dose to all our priority groups, so all over 50s and all adults who are clinically vulnerable during April, if we were facing the same situation in a month’s time, then perhaps the outcome might be different. We hope that progress on our vaccination programme will continue to build our defences. I mean, that we that we do not need circuit breakers in the future. We know that there is a moment where we will be able and will need to move from a policy of local elimination to one where we live with the virus. The situation around us beyond our shores is changing fast. And we are not a million miles away from that point. But equally, no one around the world is saying they are quite ready at that point yet. Later this week, we will be publishing our medium term approach for returning to a more normal situation with our borders. And that longer term outcome has to be the ultimate goal that we focus on. We had hoped to publish it earlier, but obviously events have unfolded at pace. So in the future, our approach may be different, but we are not there yet. And we need to act now in a way that we know works. If we allow our health and care services and vaccination programme to be destabilised, then that plan might get derailed or delayed. That is why we tried so hard to wait to have more information and ensure our response was proportionate. Late last night, we decided that we do now needs to act. After lengthy discussions that weighed heavily on our minds, we have decided that we cannot allow anything to put this longer term exit at risk. We need to intervene now. If we do if we do so now and if everything everyone does their bit, we will stamp out the current outbreak that seems to be moving under the surface of our community. Once we get into the future and our most vulnerable are protected, we may be able to take things differently. But right now, we need to eliminate this outbreak. We do not want to be in and out of lockdowns and circuit breaks. We have gone in hard and fast and this has worked, we decided that we want to do the same again. We have therefore decided that we will be heading into a further circuit break from one minute past midnight tonight. So for clarity, the first minute of Wednesday, we will be putting in place and legalising for a set of clear measures. We will be doing this as we did the last time for a period of 21 days. We will review this constantly. And as before, we will only keep measures in place for as long as we judge them necessary. If we can adjust them earlier we will if we have to extend we will this time as well as the number of active cases progress in the vaccination programme will be also an important factor for us. The measures will be similar to what we had in the last circuit break. It worked last time and we have every reason to believe it will work once again. These measures will come into force from the first minute of Wednesday. But I would encourage everyone to start immediately if possible. Let me take you through what we have decided. It is broadly where we were in January. We need you to stay at home. There are only a few exceptions to this for essential things like getting food, daily exercise or work if you really cannot work from home. You can also leave home of course if you are going for a medical appointment or to be vaccinated or tested. We will be implementing social distancing measures so two metres in all settings where it is possible to do so. If you do go outside we strongly advise you to wear face coverings as much as you possibly can. We will again insist on this on public transport. If you go outside to exercise, please do so in a way that is safe, keep your distance respect others and avoid crowds. We need you all to stop all household mixing. This is absolutely key to stopping the spread. All hospitality and leisure venues will need to close as last time they will be able to offer takeaway and delivery services but no eating in all non essential retail must close to the public as last time, they can offer delivery and click and collect services. We will again allow building suppliers to open for trades, but not to the general public or lifestyle businesses hairdressers for example must close. From tomorrow morning skills will close to the majority of pupils on the online learning which worked well in January will recommence the schools in their existing settings will only be open to children of essential workers and to vulnerable children. who needed if parents are able to work from home and keep their children at home, it is essential that they do so as numbers are limited. We are keeping the skills in their existing places this time, rather than consolidating in homes based on feedback the department received. This is to give a better, more local service to those who really need it, vulnerable children and those of essential workers, but it is just for those who do. Parents are asked where possible to keep their children at home as space is limited. In line with a third week of our last circuit break, we will not be stopping the construction or other related trades where they are outside or on vacant properties. We will however require them to fully practice social distancing, and all the mitigations and they will not be able to enter any households on less for emergency repairs. allowing these trades to continue is based on feedback from last time. And taking on feedback is something we have committed to do every time we have to step into difficult positions such as this.
Howard Quayle 11:09
Everyone who can work from home must do so we need businesses to support their employees on this as they did before, and ensure that they have only staff who are absolutely essential to be on site. Let me again, thank everyone, including all of those local businesses who took responsible action over the weekend. We appreciate what you did. And as we have said before, where we make decisions that impact you, we will be there to support you. From Wednesday, we will be reactivating the financial support measures, including mirror salary support on the business support scheme, the Treasury minister will provide a statement and the house of keys later today. I know this will be far from easy at this time for so many. I know there was a great cost and locking down our island and our lives. But we believe the alternative is now even more costly. I know we have asked you so much in the past. And I know we are asking you so much again. And I’m truly sorry that this is happening. But our collective judgement throughout yesterday and last night, as more information became clearer was that this is what we need to do. I’ve always said that we will do what is right for the island. And this is what we are doing the right thing. Talking about doing the right thing I’ve been asked why we did not say something at seven o’clock this morning. There was a risk identified late last night that had to be dealt with first, which was specific advice to year eight at Bama Hague school. If we had told people at 7am this morning not to go to work or school without any time for companies or individuals prepare for what could have been a three week period, then businesses and parents could justifiably criticised government for not allowing sufficient time in which to prepare and for businesses to continue to operate within the new rules. In truth, what we would have seen is 1000s of people having to come into work anyway, in order to prepare for what we’re asking them to do. It is recognising the importance of the issue that we are having this conversation now. Rather than our usual time. People will have the remainder of the day to prepare and position themselves properly for the next three weeks. And just before we go to questions, I’d also like to point out that the Minister for Education, sport and culture Dr. alanson is also on zoom to ask any questions you may have. And first and foremost we have Simon Richardson from business 365 Good morning, Simon Mara. My
Simon Richardson 13:43
morning, Chief Minister, I suppose the overriding feeling is here we go again. But I also feel the burning question on many people’s lips is why wasn’t strong action taken on Saturday. Now you asked people to stay at home you didn’t order them to. A lot of people didn’t hear the advice, heed the advice and they went to pubs, attended parties etc. In fact, we allowed a suppose a virtual mini Cheltenham races scenario to develop. Now I acknowledge hindsight is a wonderful thing. But we now face a potentially serious outbreak that might have been curbed the weekend.
Howard Quayle 14:22
Well, at the time, we asked we couldn’t legislate at the drop of a hat we asked people to be responsible and not to go out and I’m glad to say the vast majority of people did stay at home large events such as charity balls. Dogs Corporation I think had an event or all these were cancelled. So an awful lot of events were cancelled the vast majority Yes, there was a small minority of people who chose to not respect the advice that we were giving. But at least we did manage to avert an awful lot of gatherings. Obviously, we were waiting for more information. Had we we had tested the high risk contacts and we were waiting for that. comeback to see if they had the virus. You know, over the weekend, it became apparent that they didn’t have the virus and and therefore, as a result, we thought we had it under control. But Dr. urartu, might want to expand on that.
Henrietta Ewart 15:12
Thank you, Chief Minister. I think that’s right. It’s always a very, very difficult call to make. And as I explained when I was going through the timeline of the gradual addition of these unexplained cases, the two that we knew about Friday evening into Saturday, had not been out and about very widely at all, which actually enabled us to take a call that, from those cases, there was little evidence of high likelihood, they hadn’t been out in pubs and clubs, they hadn’t been to parties or events. So we were able to take that middling view, as the chief minister is said, You can’t just switch restrictions on and off, there is a process to go through in order to make them legal. So on the basis of the information that we had, at the time, going for that call of putting out an advisory and an information approach appeared to be appropriate. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 16:14
Thank you. Your next question, Simon,
Simon Richardson 16:17
obviously now in a situation where we could have different mutations in the community now, which brings us back to a topic that has been regularly aired at the briefings. And that’s the matter of testing and the breakdown in a relationship between the department and Dr. Glover and her company toxicogenomics. That means, in effect, we don’t have real time genomics to respond to cluster cases, and identify in rapid time, the specific mutations we’re dealing with. Now, Dr. Glover says that the whole argument comes down to a biomedical scientist copying her company’s software. Now, she said that she’s prepared to put the dispute to one side and work collaboratively with government. So in view of what we’re facing now, why isn’t this happening? Her argument, obviously, is that we need to break transmission chains, and not hope they just burn out.
Howard Quayle 17:12
Right? Well, I stopped to you, it’s to comment on that. And then the Health Minister may want to add something.
Henrietta Ewart 17:17
Firstly, genomic sequencing doesn’t help us break transmission. We do that by using all the usual methods of epidemiology and contact tracing to identify persons times and places test for whether they’re positive self isolate. In fact, knowing the genomic sequence makes no difference to that immediate response. Certainly, from an epidemiological point of view, it is extremely interesting to be able to understand where lines of transmission have come from, and you’ll remember the cluster we had immediately after the New Year. Initially, we thought there were two cases there, I think, possibly at 1.3. That couldn’t be linked back to that cluster. On the basis of the information people had provided to us. The genomic sequencing indicated that they did all relate to one travel related events. So they were the same cluster. And that led to further contact tracing which nudged people’s memories if you like, and enabled us to fill in the missing pieces with much wider community transmission. And the issue of as I’ve expressed it, the missing links. That’s the areas of Moreland where there was no fire. But where fire might well have been passing under the peat layers. Because of the time course, we’re never going to be able to get positive samples on people, even if we could identify who they possibly might have been. And therefore there won’t be any genomic sequencing. We know that all the cases we’ve seen on Ireland since mid January, that includes cases within the current cluster and other unrelated travellers coming across and being tested in the usual way. We know that they’re all can variant. We also know we have other travellers who have opted for 21 days self isolation, and no testing. So we will never know whether they were positive, and if so what variant they might have been. So the real time benefit of variant testing, to my mind does not impact on our acute response. Thank you.
Howard Quayle 19:29
Thank you. And David, would you like to comment on anything?
David Ashford 19:33
Yes, thank you, Chief Minister. Can I first of all, say Simon, obviously, as Minister, I can’t, quite rightly on anything that either is subject to or may be subject to any form of legal action in relation to genomic sequence and the Director of Public Health has covered it all very well there. It’s very good at looking backwards genomic sequencing and it does have a role to play. But it is not the time sensitive role. Dr. Glover quite rightly says what we need to do is change the transmission What does that is contact tracing, our contact tracing team looking at those cases that are tested positive, and then isolating those high risk contacts around people. That is what makes the difference. And that’s what stops a widespread outbreak. genomic sequencing plays its part, but it is not as time sensitive as the contact tracing. And can I just say the relationship between the HSA and Dr. Glover has nothing to do with the genomic sequencing, we have always used the Liverpool facility for genomic sequencing. We’ve never used Dr. Glover, even when she was contracted to the departments. And the situation is not changed. We have access to a world class facility in Liverpool, that gives us access to wider data and builds us into the wider understanding of COVID-19. It’s used by multiple countries around the world. It’s overseen by three world class professors. And we shall be very, very thankful actually as an island that we have access to that kind of facilitate at no cost to the taxpayer.
Howard Quayle 21:00
Thank you very much for that, David, and thank you very much, Simon. Now we move on to Sam Turton from Jeff Good. Good morning, Sam or Maura. Mike, if I want to say faster my but it’s more of mine.
Sam Turton 21:11
Or my chief minister, M. It seems that since the weekend, we all knew where this was going. And fair enough. You had issued the advice on Saturday. But then on Sunday, we said there was no restrictions. And the pubs reopened, and everyone went back to school and everyone back to work. Fantastic. Was it just to not go to a lockdown the weekend purely a medical one, also division politically in terms of council ministers on whether or not we should interlock them.
Howard Quayle 21:35
Now that there was no divisions? Sam, what we were facing was the fact that we’d had two cases, we obviously didn’t know where they’d come from. But we did community, we did the testing straight away on their close contacts. And on the Saturday on Sunday, we got the the evidence that they did not have the vaccine, and therefore they hadn’t been spreading it around the community. So we’ve always said, just when you get one or two cases, we were never going to lock the island down. And we had clearly seen that on Sunday. The close contacts were not high risk. They weren’t shedding in the community. And therefore, we had hoped that that element had been put to bed. And that’s why we felt the needs that we were able to open up again, I don’t know, Dr. You if you want to expand on that.
Henrietta Ewart 22:26
Yes, Chief Minister. Thank you. I think that’s absolutely fair comment. lockdown has huge implications on a whole range of fronts. It’s not something to be undertaken lightly. And one has to therefore take a call as public health and contact tracing on whether we still consider that the cases are containable, through contact tracing, self isolation, wider testing, or whether there is an indication to go for an island wide changing level of response. And on what we had available to us over the weekend. We were not recommending that we should escalate a lockdown response.
Howard Quayle 23:07
Yeah, I just like to give a little bit of a timeframe. So I’m just just to help you. We became aware, I became aware at about quarter past eight last night that we had two unexplained cases before then we’d been looking at, for cases, what we thought there might have been a link and that was being tested. As the time went by. However, at 815, it became aware that we had two further cases, which we didn’t believe were linked to any other cases or we we didn’t know the time, I immediately call the Council of Ministers Meeting at nine o’clock and 10 o’clock, we started contacting the school that was involved and started to put things in place. So we have moved really quickly on this once we realised it was a situation that we didn’t feel that we could control. I don’t know, David, if you want to add anything to that.
David Ashford 23:58
Yeah, I mean, we moved as fast as we could with it, Sam, as the Chief Ministers laid out the timeline, their council meeting, the Council of Ministers was meeting late into the night to discuss this, we have to draw proposals that we wish to move forward with they were agreed there to be agreed as well. But I think also the other important point to make is that there is always with COVID a time delay in the fact that people tend to present symptoms, generally four to five days after they’ve actually developed COVID. And so it is currently lately the chains of transmission and people’s infection occurred prior to Saturday.
Howard Quayle 24:35
Okay, thanks, Sam.
Sam Turton 24:38
Okay, and just secondly, em into Public Health England have put out information relating to vaccines, and the efficiency of both vaccines that we’re using on the island. So in the first dose, can give up to 80% protection in your varieties. People are asking those given that you’ve already said we’re expecting a big influx of vaccines onto on this month. Why are we not stepping up with the first doses now? Relying on that we know there are more coming in quicker than they would have been.
Howard Quayle 25:04
Thanks, Sam. And, David, I think you can give a far more detailed answer than I can on that. Obviously, we’ve always known we were getting these increased numbers, we’ve now got additional ones we’ve just found out. But David, if you’d like to give a full detailed answer,
David Ashford 25:17
yeah, I certainly watch Chief Minister and the answer is we are stepping up the first dose of Sam, I explained this a briefing previously, it doesn’t actually make much changed while rollout in terms of the figures, I think I said it makes two weeks difference. And that is why I announced the other day that we expect now to have all the over 50s with their first dose of vaccine dawn in April, rather than in May, which was the original shedule. And actually, we will actually we will have done the doses for the over 50s on exactly the same timescale the UK is laid out. Because again, we have to remember about language, the UK is using the language of inviting people for a vaccine. That doesn’t mean people have actually had the vaccine, the UK deadline for everyone over the age of 50. And in the vulnerable category to be done is around mid April. And that is exactly the same as ours is we’re just concerns that it’s
Sam Turton 26:09
impossible to go quicker. Now that we do know we have more isn’t isn’t not possible to speed up it even quicker. The island’s vaccination programme.
David Ashford 26:17
Once we received the vaccine, we may well be able to do that. And I may well in a couple of weeks be announcing that the data is moved forward. Again, we don’t yet know as I explained at the previous briefing, what the numbers will actually be in terms of the additional vaccine supply we will get. So it is important we see what comes on Ireland. And once we know what that additional supply is. Hopefully I will be able to announce positive news the date might move forward again.
Howard Quayle 26:45
Thanks very much, Sam. Now we move on to Paul Moulton Isle of Man television. Good morning, Paul Morrow my
Paul Moulton 26:53
Good morning, Chief Minister, I need to go back to the timeline last night and the the very late press release. I think it’s the number one question that’s been asked so many times last night was could you not have just made some of these announcements there. And then in the press release, for instance, the lockdown was going to happen. Children have gone to school today yet now you’re saying they’re not going to go back tomorrow. And in fact, to the education This was on the radio pass, I say get voluntary today to go to school. This seems yet again. And you know, I keep asking it. It seems communication hasn’t been your finest Quint on this.
Howard Quayle 27:25
Well, well, I suppose we’re damned if we do. We’re damned if we don’t, Paul, we finished our meeting and gone 10 o’clock last night, we obviously had to focus on speaking with the head teacher of the school involved to make sure that we could put procedures in place as quickly as possible. So the school did wake up in the morning, even at seven o’clock to find out they had a problem that was being worked on. And we put a press release out straight away to all timbal members. And then obviously on to the media outlets saying that we were going to be making an announcement. Now it’s important that we give and we’ve done this before, if you look at the lockdown in January, for example, I think at lunchtime, on the fifth Tuesday, I said we were going to be closing schools on the Thursday. So we didn’t do it straight away. It’s not the sort of thing you do, because our young people need to go into school to get their IT equipment so that they can work from home. And also parents who may have businesses that needs to put their business in order, need the day to put the kids into school so they can go and get shots of supplies, etc. turn their business from maybe inward facing to outward facing if they’re going to be doing deliveries etc. They need to and this is what we found out from the last time. It’s no different than the last time In fact, it’s probably slightly quicker that we’ve we’ve announced it. I think given the magnitude of what we are announcing today, it’s important that I do it face to face with people rather than putting it in a detailed press release. And you know, if I give you an example, in the United Kingdom, you you get a little leak that the Prime Minister is going to give a press statement at six, seven o’clock in the evening. And that can be 24 hours in advance. We put out a notice late last night the minute we’d finished the Council of Ministers, I think it went out about 11 o’clock to war or circa that time and that I would be doing something first thing in the morning and here we are. And that’s what we’re doing. We’ve there are so many variants Paul and I and I appreciate some people will say oh you should have done earlier. Some people will be happy with what we’ve done. We’re damned if we do damned if we don’t we’ve been pretty quick off the mark when you consider it was only late evening last night that we found out about these two cases. And we moved except you know, we had been planning a way forward if we did have more cases and that’s why we’ve been able to move so quickly. probably half a day quicker than the previous outbreak but I understand your concern. It’s not an exact science. Because this
Paul Moulton 29:55
is presumably the ken variant in it so more transmissible. You’ve probably put people in in dangerous situations this morning that could have actually made their own choices not to have
Howard Quayle 30:04
been in that situation, surely, we put a press release out advising that I would be making a statement and that we would be bringing in restrictions from one minute past midnight Wednesday morning. So I don’t know Dr. allanson, if you’d like to come in on the on the school side of things.
Alex Allinson 30:22
Thank you, Chief Minister. What I’d like to say is in terms of schools, we need time to prepare. That’s what today is about is giving parents the confidence that their child will be looked after that they will be given choices, and that their child’s education will continue through either remote learning, or if their child is classed as a vulnerable child or child of a key worker who has to go to school, then then then obviously, key workers go work. Obviously, there’ll be looked after, we’re also going to be working with preschool sector in terms of nurseries and childminders to provide this. But it’s very important to get this into perspective, we yes, we do have a small number of cases in the community. But we can react to this in an organised way to make sure that we don’t panic to make sure that we take people along with the decision making process, and also that we look off those children and make sure that their education isn’t interrupted. What I tried to do this morning on Manx radio was made quite clear to those parents who might be anxious about sending their child to school. But this wasn’t mandatory, but they didn’t have that choice. So parents would not have that choice because they need that time to prepare. And that’s what we will be providing today through the education service.
Howard Quayle 31:40
It’s also worth pointing out that obviously, when we have a case with St. Mary’s school, we took out, we asked the the year that of the child that had suddenly caught COVID-19 to stay at home, that’s exactly the same procedure that we’ve done with Bama. Hey, we didn’t shut down St. Mary’s. It carried on but we asked that year group where the high risk setting was to stay at home whilst we did test which one exactly the same with Bama. Hague, you know, the rest of the school will be low risk. But again, but I get your concerns. There’s no perfect answer to this. We’ve just done our best based on the past experiences where we know parents have to go to work today to prepare and that children need to get there it because at the end of the day, their education is incredibly important and making sure that they can work from home and have the right tools is really important.
Paul Moulton 32:32
Yeah, but just to be asking, Can you clarify that nurseries?
Unknown Speaker 32:35
Paul Moulton 32:36
they affected on
Unknown Speaker 32:37
lockdown? Do you know
Howard Quayle 32:38
it’s the same as last time?
Unknown Speaker 32:40
Howard Quayle 32:41
you want to come in and give the detail on the nurseries?
Unknown Speaker 32:46
Certainly, Chief Minister, what we’ve done in the past is work with nurseries and childminders to make sure that spaces are available for vulnerable children. And those children of key workers who desperately need to go to frontline services provide things like the health care that we will rely upon. We’ll be working with those providers during the course of today, we’ll also be addressing a whole range of other issues that we’ve provision free school meals to ensure that people are looked after during the circuit breaker lockdown. Thank you, Chief Minister.
Unknown Speaker 33:17
Paul Moulton 33:19
And my next question is for Dr. Allinson. And again, back to the schools. And we had a lot of comments that why have you picked only that one year when clearly this transmission of people moving around schools, they go to the wash basins and so on. Plus there was school activities with other schools taking place, which have got other parents very worried. Anything you want to add to that about these, this interaction with other people from other classes and other schools?
Unknown Speaker 33:45
Certainly, certainly, thank you very much for that question for what we’ve been doing is working very closely with the track and trace system to identify the risk, you’re quite right that infections can spread amongst schools. But we also know that even in the Kent’s barrier, the transmission transmission rate between child to child is relatively low, and certainly not as high as it would be from child to adult. Understand that some of the activities that went through went on last week in terms of the interaction with other schools around door activities, and so steam is quite low risk. So what the track and trace system have been doing is trying to quantify that risk. So we can react in a proportionate way we can spend state preparing for the closure of schools, and we can look after those children take them through what is again quite quite a difficult process for them and their families in an organised way. But we will keep the safety of those children as our key priority throughout this and act accordingly. So in answer to your question, yes, there is a risk between transmission, that risk has been assessed on a system that is being dealt with on a case by case basis to isolate that year group to make sure the patient hasn’t spread. To take action accordingly,
Paul Moulton 35:01
and distinguish when should people pick up their pupils whenever today and take them home if they can, in addition to start shielding today, rather than wait for the end of the school day,
Unknown Speaker 35:10
or it’s not a matter of shielding, what we’re trying to do is ask people to stay at home, wherever possible from from tonight, I think today, as I said before, is really a time to prepare for the weeks ahead, I wouldn’t necessarily want parents to be coming in disrupting classes, teachers are going to be doing a lot of work today, to reassure pupils to actually guide them through this process, to make sure that they’re looked off that either when they’re in the school environment if they need to come in, or when they’re at home for money. So I think picking your child up at the end of the end of the school day, as planned, or allowing your child to come home as planned is absolutely appropriate. However, what we as an anxious time for parents and children, we know that children aren’t significantly affected by the virus, although they can contract it. And so if parents want not to send their child to school today, or they want to pick them up early, that’s absolutely fine. What we’d ask them to do his work with your teachers. So this can be done in an organised way.
Howard Quayle 36:19
Thank you very much. I think we lost a little elements of Dr. Allen’s in there, I think the main thrust of the answer was clear. And as I would say, last time when we have this situation with St. Mary’s school, the parents and the pupils and the staff at St. Mary’s school handled absolutely excellently with the contact tracing team. And it did go exceptionally well. So I’ve no doubt that the same situation will happen with the support from parents and pupils of Burma Hague year eight. And I wish that I wish them all well. Next we have Helen McKenna from Isle of Man newspapers. Good morning, Helen Mora. My
Leanne Cook 36:54
are my chief minister, my first question is probably for yourself or the health minister. Why does it take so long to legally bring in legislation to impose a circuit breaker?
Howard Quayle 37:05
Well, you’ve got to get all your ducks in a row. That’s something that we have in place now. We worked on it over the weekend. And we were ready to move as quickly as we can do, however, we have to give people time to adjust. So that’s what we’ve done. We’ve given people today to get their businesses in order their children’s education equipment, in order so that we can have a successful 21 days with back without people needing to go in and maybe cause more problems as a result. So there’s an awful lot of incredibly complex legislation to make sure it’s legal and can survive. legal challenge. We’ve got a team who have been working flat out over the weekend, and today, and it will all be ready and be brought in place for one minute past midnight, having said that, the legislation could maybe be brought in slightly early. But it is important that we give people the the notice today to get on and sort their lives out and ready for for this is what we’ve done in the past. This is nothing different, nothing new. So I don’t want to think that this we haven’t gone into lockdown till tomorrow because of the legislation. It’s ready. It’s purely we’re giving the people of the island the chance to prepare. But also, obviously, we’re asking them to start social distancing straight away, and wearing face masks. I know, David, if you want to add anything to that,
David Ashford 38:32
very briefly, if I may, Chief Minister, it’s just to just to say that legislation is a complex process, it does have to stand up to legal challenge, we have to make sure it’s right. And the first time and that means we have to go through it in detail. And legislation can be turned around same day. What was different on Saturday, which is perhaps what you’re alluding to Helen is of course, it was quite late in the day, we knew the events due to start about par five that evening, there was absolutely no way on earth with the timing of things that we could have had legislation drafted, approved and in place for half, five that evening, it would have the earliest have been later that evening. So that’s why we took the decision of the chief minister is quite corrected every single time when we’ve had an outbreak or close to whenever we’ve had to bring in measures, we have always given people time to prepare. And I think that’s very, very important. We’ve got the messages out there as to what we would like people to do and what we want people to do immediately. But then we have said to people, you’ve got that grace period, because there are certain people who may decide, for instance, today that because they’re going to be locked down for three weeks in a circuit breaker that they might want to move in with other members of their family for that period to form a household due to mental health issues. So on. We need to give people time to do that. We have done through hours and I think it’s the right thing to do.
Howard Quayle 39:55
Your next question
Leanne Cook 39:57
my second question is probably aimed at the Chief Minister, how will government ensure that people whose jobs will be put on hold obviously during lockdown are sufficiently supported through their circuit breaker and duck? Doctor, you mentioned before that eventually obviously, we want to eliminate the the will have to obviously live with the virus. And is there an alternative, basically, as well, what I’m asking to a circuit breaker. Is there any sort of thoughts into how it can be? I mentioned that, I think last week at the last briefing, a watered down version of lockdown, obviously, a lot of people’s lives being put on hold. And so basically will be our alternative to lots out in the future.
Howard Quayle 40:40
Yeah, well, there’s two points, first and foremost, the same financial support, Helen will be there. It’ll be started on Wednesday, the mirror the financial support, etc. what was then the last last lockdown will be reintroduced tomorrow on the Treasury minister will be giving a statement in the house of keys today about that, but business as usual from support to people. Now, obviously, we had we been in this position saying a month time when we had VAT given the first vaccine to all our vulnerable groups, then obviously, there might have been a more watered down situation, because we’ve said when we’re never going to have, we’re not going going forward to be totally eliminating COVID. On the album, which is where we are at this moment in time, we will be moving to living with it. But we’re not in that position yet, because we’re still in the winter period for the hospital for beds. And we haven’t vaccinated enough people in the categories where we had obviously, maybe in a month’s time, that would be different. But we have made one significant change to this lockdown, so to the circuit break than we did to the circuit breaker in January. And that is we are allowing outside trades, the building sector, the window cleaners, gardeners can carry on working as long as they comply, mitigating circumstances, social distancing, not going into people’s houses, etc, unless it’s an emergency. So this circuit breaker is slightly different where a significant number of people can continue to work from so we have made subtle, well, quite a significant change there because it’s outside and steamed less of a risk as we now have more people vaccinated. So we will be moving from total elimination to living with it. Sadly, it’s probably come a month to two months too soon. And we felt that we needed to go back into the circuit breaker to eliminate it. And that’s the position we’re in but a good good question. Thank you very much. Next, we have just Stokes from ITV. Granada. Good morning, Josh Mora my morning, Chief Minister,
Unknown Speaker 42:39
first question to Dr. You it please. In terms of the lockdown being in place for 21 days, it does feel like a short time to regain control of what’s happening, given where we’re up to within with the unexplained cases, what’s your initial thoughts on how long we can we could continue to see spread in the community. Now a lockdown has been implemented,
Henrietta Ewart 42:58
that’s really impossible to call, we will continue to see spread, obviously, within household and close contacts, we expect that and that’s what we saw with the cluster. The wider spread is really down to behaviours. This is a virus that spreads overwhelmingly from person to person via droplets, there is some evidence that it may also be spread by aerosol, that’s smaller particles that get up into the air and can be recirculated and therefore cause infection at a time when direct contact isn’t happening. And there is also theoretical evidence that it might be spread by surface contamination. However, in terms of the overall burden of transmission, it is overwhelmingly the direct contact transmission that drives the numbers. And that is down to people’s behaviour. If you don’t mix, you won’t transmitted you won’t be infected. So that’s really the message for everybody that you have to take this seriously. Over and over again, we find and I know it’s a common feature that’s found just as much in the UK and also in Ireland, is people justify things to themselves. They think, oh, it’ll be alright, if I just, you know, go into this household, do this hug that person, whatever. Actually, you might get away with it, but you might not. And if you don’t, it’s not only you, that takes the consequences of that it’s everybody else that you might then go on to interact with. And in fact, so you stop mixing, you stop transmission. So we have to take that message very, very seriously. Thank you,
Unknown Speaker 44:41
just as a supplementary to that. I guess the question the crucial part was, do you think 21 days is long enough to control this in a lockdown?
Henrietta Ewart 44:49
It’s a good starting period because it is one incubation cycle which is 14 days plus a half cycle. Obviously if we Seeing cases springing up sporadically, randomly in time and place across the island. During those 21 days, we will have to keep reevaluating as we go through that time period. So we can’t guarantee that we will achieve a return to not low or zero transmission in that time. The key to achieving that is for everybody to actually follow the guidance. And I know you know, people get weary of this, I think we all understand that. But we do need to take it seriously. And not to justify ourselves in breaking that the restrictions and keep hold it the fact that within a month or two, we will be much clearer on the benefit of vaccination, and the vaccination programme will have been rolled out that much further. And so, you know, we have to hold to the thought that with luck. This may be the last time we need to go through this process. Although of course, we can’t guarantee you that. Thank you. Thank you.
Unknown Speaker 46:04
Thank you. My second question to you, Chief Minister, what communication has the government had with the police when it comes to enforcing these new rules? And is it exactly the same enforcement as the previous lockdown we saw in January? What part will the police play in this new lockdown?
Howard Quayle 46:18
Exactly the same they did a sterling job the last time in the meetings that we have obviously the Minister for Home Affairs and justice is part of that and he liaises with the Chief Constable obviously the chief secretary and the team when they meet to have discussions that the Chief Constable is from time to is part of those actual meetings. So they will be fully adverse as to the decision and they will carry on with well wrong procedures that they they did in January.
Unknown Speaker 46:46
Howard Quayle 46:47
Thank you very much. Next we have Leann cook from three FM Good. Good morning, Leon Mora my
Unknown Speaker 46:54
Good morning. My
Leanne Cook 46:55
first question is for the health minister. And we’ve had a question from someone who is classed as clinically vulnerable. And previously, when the islands entered lockdown or a circuit breaker, they’ve had to shield entirely. They’ve now had one dose of a Coronavirus vaccine. They’re just wondering going forward, will they have to take the same course of action? Or will it change now they’ve
David Ashford 47:16
had a dose? Well, thank you very much. very timely question, actually, because I haven’t gotten the briefing, we would have been putting a press release out anyway, in terms of shielding, we are advising that those that have previously shielded shield again, that is regardless of whether they’ve had the vaccine. Now the reason for that is, is the FST of the vaccine builds up over time. It doesn’t, it’s not instant, the moment you’ve had a vaccine. So because this has come so earlier in the day, it’s important that those that even have had one or even two doses of vaccine still continue to shield if they’re in the shielding category, to allow the vaccine to have time to work on their system, and to give them the protection that they need. So I know that will be frustrating for many people that yet again, they’re being asked to shield for 21 days, we will review that as the process goes along as the period goes along. But for the moment, regardless of whether people have had the vaccine, we are asking them if they’ve shielded before, to do so again, please.
Leanne Cook 48:15
And my second question is also for yourself. And just a question we’ve heard from a member of the public, they’re just looking for clarification in regards to nobles hospital with visitation what the current procedures are there.
David Ashford 48:26
Yes, so visitation has reverted back to exactly what it was during the previous circuit breaker. So it is essential visitation only. So essential visitation will be for those who were in a very serious condition, end of life. And we are also doing exactly the same. That is what we’ve recommended for care homes and nursing home settings as well. Because again, although those in a care home setting, have overwhelmed being vaccinated, like we say the vaccine takes time, and the adversity builds up over time. Unfortunately, this has happened like I say a bit too early. And we therefore do require those people still to shield and we do need the restrictions on visiting to be in place. Okay, thank
Unknown Speaker 49:07
Howard Quayle 49:09
Thanks very much, Leon. Next we have Tim Glover from Manx radio. Good morning tomorrow my
Unknown Speaker 49:15
Maura, my chief minister, just some of the comments we’re getting in here Little Britain it’s appeared like over the last few days. Yes, but no but yes, birth control free Korea comin with information. People are saying they wanted to make up their own minds. And they’re also concerned about mixed messages. Because when we’ve been at this conference, government has put a tweet out, we need you to stop all household mixing. This is absolutely key to stopping the spread. And yet we’ve got the schools and people around the island going about their business to get ready for a lockdown.
Howard Quayle 49:49
Well, that standard procedure of course from now where possible, you need to not mix with others and social distancing comes in tomorrow, but we’re asking where possible if you can start it Now, but as we’ve said time and time again, we need to enable people to get their businesses set up for the circuit break, we need schoolchildren to be able to get their IT equipment, etc, ready for the circuit break so that life can go on as smoothly as possible whilst we’re having to go through the the circuit break. I mean, obviously, on Saturday, we put a message out asking people to not go out because we, we had a case that came out of, you know, out of the blue that we needed to react quickly to. So I think we’ve been as consistent as possible. It’s not an exact science dealing with with COVID. And you’re waiting for data to come along. And that’s what we were doing yesterday, for example, until these two cases came along. at quarter past eight, I found out so it’s it’s a moving feast all the time, I’m afraid or maybe you might like to expand on the the variants that we’re we’re dealing with all the time.
Henrietta Ewart 50:54
Thank you, Chief Minister, I think the key issue there, and you mentioned, I haven’t seen the tweet from government. But you mentioned that the tweet said that we want households to stop mixing. households are the highest risk environment for transmission transmission of COVID-19. Clearly, that’s one’s own household. If you live in a household with somebody who’s infected, the chances that you will become infected are very high, higher in the winter than in the summer, because of the issue about people spending time in heated rooms with poor ventilation. If you invite other people into your household, you’re effectively putting them into that same high risk environment, the risk of transmission in school, the risk of transmission in workplaces is far lower. So the tweet was absolutely correct in stressing the importance of stopping the household mixing.
Howard Quayle 51:46
I think it’s important I challenge you, Tim, to name a country that shut down instantly without giving any notice to people. Obviously, we’re asking people to be responsible, and the lead in time to tonight or first thing in the morning, they’ve got lives to give, they’ve got their businesses to sort out their children have got to be sorted out from an education point of view. But in the interim, whilst they’re going about doing all that if they can try and do the social distancing, that we highly recommend the wearing of masks, and if they can stay at home, if there’s no need for them to go out, then we’re asking people to do that now, rather than wait until the lead in time, but we realise that the vast majority of people need lead in time to prepare themselves for a 21 day lockdown or circuit breaker, which is what this is. And as I say, this is standard procedure across the world. We’re not doing anything that’s radically different. And as I say, to try and shut down instantly, just just would be a disaster, it would cause more problems and probably add to more spread than I controlled, well measured way forward, is what we’re looking for. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.
Unknown Speaker 52:57
Second question, this latest lockdown, excuse me came as a result of a steam packet work. And a lot of fires been directed at the steam packet. But don’t you need to look a bit closer to home to Cabinet Office, he will have issued a company direction notice. And then 11 months later, it’s not being complied with. Its found out. There was an attempt, I think to sweep it under the carpet somewhat on Sunday. But wasn’t someone at Cabinet Office asleep at the wheel here? And does this not need a full an independent inquiry? Yeah,
Howard Quayle 53:30
well, I have actually asked the chief secretary Tim to do a review of the situation so we can learn from it to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Obviously, it has happened it was a genuine misunderstanding with with the steam packet, making their English UK team follow the rules, but not the mainstream. The key defence is not necessarily that element. It was the wearing of PP on board the ship to stop the transmission between the two crews, because obviously the Manx crew never went off. But yes, I have asked the chief secretary to have a review so that we can learn from this, we should always learn when problems happen. And this isn’t any any different. But I think it has been a genuine misunderstanding. And yes, we must learn from this, but I don’t want it to be a witch hunt. Thank you. Thank you very much, Tim. And now last but David, do you want him to come in?
David Ashford 54:31
Yeah, it’s just one thing like their chief minister, I just wanted to challenge him You say that call lockdown as could knock down circuit breakers due to the steam packets. We don’t actually have the evidence of that. The cases that we that have driven the decision are of unknown origin. So we don’t know where they’ve come from. We cannot say definitively that those lines of transmission have come from the same pack of course. So I just need to make that absolutely clear. It’s important that we don’t run away with this and say it’s down to the steam pack. Of course, to be Because we do not have the evidence to be able to say that
Howard Quayle 55:03
very good point out. It’s also the case that if we knew where this these two cases have come from, then we might not be standing in front of you today saying that we’re having to go into a circuit break. It’s all about proportionality of risk. So this is not traced back to our man steam packet, it could well be someone has come in who’s travelled in and hasn’t followed the rules we just do not know at this moment in time. Right. But finally, but not least, we have Alex Bell from BBC Ireland moment. Good morning, Alex Maura, my good morning.
Alex Bell 55:34
You said today that the focus remains on elimination. We’ve known about this cluster for a fortnight now we’ve watched his cases grow day by day. Had you intervened earlier on? Could this latest lockdown have been avoided?
Howard Quayle 55:49
Well, we have a clear policy where obviously, we’re not going to lock down the island or have a circuit break just for one or two cases, if we know where they’ve been, where the people have been, if we’ve been able to establish a link, which we have done on the previous two cases. And if we then tested all their high risk contacts of those people, and they’ve all come back as negative, then we know that as far as that risk, and what we’re aware of hasn’t spread around the island. It’s only very recently that we’ve then had the additional cases which have tipped the scales. I think Dr. You might want to expand on that. Yes, thank
Henrietta Ewart 56:27
you until Friday, and the first of the two unexplained cases, all the other cases were linked very clearly to the transmission chain relating back to the steam packet. And the vast majority of them were already in self isolation. So there was no onward transmission risk from those, given, of course, that they were abiding by self isolation rules, which as far as we were aware, they were, there were a couple of cases subsequently located related to a location of interest. Again, those were self isolated, and the transmission chains appeared to be under control, because wider testing of people in that venue did not indicate any further spread. None of this can ever be perfect, because always there may be people who were in that venue who chose not to come forward protesting for whatever reason, and might therefore have potentially been out there spreading. So it’s an imperfect science. But nonetheless, we do follow standard principles and protocols for consistency. Because we know from Well, not just the history of COVID, but all the history of epidemiology and contact tracing that that approach actually does work. So it was only on Friday that we began to see issues that caused us to have wider concern that there may be other branch lines of transmission, if you like, which we hadn’t got controlled within the approach. And then of course, the subsequent emergence of cases over the weekend and yesterday, confirmed that decisions have been made, as you have now heard.
Unknown Speaker 58:03
Howard Quayle 58:04
I suppose it’s quite ironic, Alex, that in January and December, we had two separate cases, the first case that we had at the towards the end of December, we had under control, there didn’t seem to be any more cases. And then we had another outbreak in New Year’s Eve and into January, that clearly was from a totally separate case, and but had travelled all over the all over the island and had caused us to go into lockdown. So at this moment in time, we may well have two separate cases like we did in January. But obviously we’ll be doing more tests to see whether that’s the case or not. But it’s going to be proportionate locking down the island, going into a circle rate has incredible impacts on people’s mental health, not just the economy, and welfare, etc. So we’ve got to ensure that we don’t just do a knee jerk reaction when we get a case that we’ve done our best research to see if we can trace it if there’s a link. It’s when we don’t feel confident that we know where a case has come from. That’s when we really have to move on. That’s what happened to us last night.
Alex Bell 59:10
There are now more than 50 cases of COVID on the Isle of Man though, can you not see mine to some people? This seems like the situation has been left to get out of control before you’ve done anything about it.
Howard Quayle 59:21
Yeah, well off those 50 cases, Alex, some of them are travel related. They’re not all down to this cluster. Some of them the In fact, a significant proportion of the cases are people who were already in isolation, and therefore had not been infecting people around the island. They were high risks to the initial cluster, and were in isolation so they were not in the community. It’s community unexplained community cases, which is the main cause for concern and that’s when you make your decisions. We have six just to put it into context. So that’s not a lot, but it’s enough to make us Change your minds and go into lockdown. We only had two of those late last night that we knew about. So it’s not big numbers of the unexplained type. Again, Dr. Could you expand on that? And then maybe David might want to come in as well
Henrietta Ewart 1:00:12
as well? Yes, that’s right. And I’ve already said this today, but I’ll just say it again, the initial two cases had not been out and about very much. So the risk that there was wider dissemination from them was judged to be not high. And then of course, they and their household contacts were placed in social isolation. The subsequent case that emerged on Sunday and the related case amongst the non household contacts that emerged the following day appeared to have a plausible link. And obviously, we took forward as usual the work around locations of interest. And then it was only yesterday evening, when we had to further cases which indicated further geographic spread, and wider demographics in the nature of the individuals involved in those two cases. That made it become more clear that this is about a minor Moreland fire a peat fire slow burn under the surface, which obviously needs stronger response than just managing the individual cases and contacts.
Alex Bell 1:01:24
Thank you. And it was really just three weeks ago that you appeared chief minister in the world’s press with some considerable pride about how the Isle of Man had managed so far. If we emerge from this unscathed or not very escaped in another three weeks, we’d be doing the same.
Howard Quayle 1:01:45
Well, I’m always proud of the reaction you know, throughout this whole pandemic, the way the great Manx public have responded to this and, and follow the advice and enjoyed eight months of unbroken normality on the island on online most of the rest of the world. I’ve always been proud. I would point out that at no time did we go out to the media saying look at what we’ve done. It was the media came that came to us asking to see how we’d done it. It was certainly not us being complacent. And I said, you know, in all the interviews I’ve done with the media, but we’re not complacent. It can come back. We’ve got to follow the rules. So I can’t say what will happen in 21 days time, hopefully we will be out of this and the UK medical centre of the man has done it again. but only time will tell Alex. Thank you very much. Well, thank you all very much for those questions. Today is all about preparing, giving businesses notice allowing schools to plan and allowing everyone to be prepared. As I’ve said many times before, there is no need to panic, there is no need to buy any more provisions than you need. It is important to think of others. And I know our incredible community will rally around those who knew who needs the help most. So today is about getting ready. This is tough. I know it will be hard on families and and our businesses, it will be hard and our health and well being and it will be hard on our children. I do believe though that if we get this right one more time, if we stamp out once and for all the transmission that has been sitting under the surface for some time, from then where possible. For some time now we will be fine. So where possible, please stay at home. Thank you for tuning in today. I’m sorry that we’ve had to announce this, but I hope you can appreciate that we really had no option. So stay safe everyone. And we will of course give regular updates. And I hope to be able to give a briefing tomorrow. Thank you all very much.