Tynwald Questions on HQ’s Exit Strategy


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The Chief Minister has presented his gov’s exit strategy to Tynwald, including plans for the vaccine rollout and border openings, but it’s done little to quell rebellion on the back benches.Explanation and analysis of the strategy will be released at 4pm today.

Mr Robertshaw – One point to raise, we need to look at the holey cheese. Issue of personal judgement of citizens as we move from elimination to mitigation, greater requirement for people to make personal judgements. It seems common sense to me that the Kent variant transmits more through aerosols than original droplets virus spread. This means a number of properties are at risk if ventilation isn’t properly achievable, would CM please take the issue back and consider introducing the concept of judgement of ventilation and make the public more aware of it.

HQ – Yes of course, as more info becomes available we’ll do that.

Ms Edge – Jan 19, we were clearly aware of the new variant, how do our numbers compare with an average in other areas and what is different?

HQ – If you look at Jersey, they hit 1,000 cases, Guernsey is just coming out after a six week lockdown. Our team is looking at putting data together, will share when ready.

Mr Shimmins – Will you acknowledge our vaccine rollout is too slow? Slower than everyone around us. How many thousand more could be given first dose this month if we delayed the second dose in line with JVCI advice?

HQ – I’ve given you answers before, we are 1,000 a day target, we will expand the gap between first and second doses. David said yesterday we keep some vaccines in reserve for some people, we will be on par with the UK soon.

Mrs Caine – Stop rewriting history, when you say decisive action, you didn’t. Saturday when everything was cancelled for the afternoon CoMin then flip flopped to reopen Sunday and Monday. That led to this increase. When is the lockdown due to end? Are we looking at six weeks? CoMin mistakes led to this.

HQ – You have a selective memory, we’ve explained numerous times what happened on Saturday Feb 27. We had two high risk cases and we were tracing contacts. On Sunday we had results that were negative. Evidence showed no transmission and led to us opening up on the Sunday. However, the minute we knew it was transmitting, we called for lockdown. Really disappointing the data didn’t show what we needed. We didn’t have the data at the time. We don’t have an end date for lockdown yet.

Ms August-Hanson – Personal judgement in the transition phase, could we look at social distancing, mask wearing and shielding that may help people make decisions for what is right for them? WIFI drops out.

President – Reply to question so far HQ, we’ll come back

HQ – I agree, nothing is off the table as we go forward. These are all things we are happy to work with, it will have to be reviewed going forward.

President – Are you back? 

TAH – I’m back! Soz about that. Crisis comms and Hub Schools should have been worked out, are we keeping a fluid log of what plans we have in place? 

HQ – We have templates, but they have to be adapted. We didn’t have a big outbreak in kids the first time around so we had to change the Hub Schools plan.

Mr Callister – Can you look again at support bubbles and can you give reassurance around rules on walking dogs? Especially those in isolation.

HQ – Two very good points, doggies, I am conscious that their animals need to go walkies, we have asked to review this and clarification can be issued later.

Support bubbles, we’re doing our best to support those who are vulnerable but advice is that it’s the biggest threat to further spread. 

Mr Thomas – Matt Hancock praised delaying the second jab as the first jab saves lives. The UK was heavily criticised for changing the position, it has been suggested to me that 10,000 could’ve been given first dose by now, have you disregarded JVCI advice? It is time to revisit the decision.

HQ – At the time, it wasn’t clinical advice, it was something the UK did. As evidence came through that it could be done, we changed. Content to follow advice of medics.

Dr Al – Would you agree that vaccine targets in the UK are just for invitations, our schedule will mean we finish priority groups same as the UK, no evidence we would’ve done an extra 10,000.

HQ – I agree, maybe CT can share his advice for 10,000 extra.

Mrs Lord-Brennan MLC – Elimination is no longer right for the island, we must focus on mitigation to exit the lockdown and finally do you agree it is in the best interest of the island to avoid social and economic distress of lockdown with it’s all or nothing nature.

HQ – Elimination has served us well, had 8 months of normality, compare that with the UK and Europe. We know we can’t live this way forever, we need to move on with living with it.

Ms Edge – Who made the decision to open the schools last Monday? Genomics?

HQ – All decisions are made collectively by CoMin based on evidence. Genomics don’t change how we react, Public Health says they have all they need.

Mr Shimmins – When will you level that three weeks isn’t enough. Manx Public losing faith with spin and bluster, we need trust. Exit framework is waffle and feels like a diversion from failure of last month.

Someone is heard giggling.

HQ – No questions, just an attack. We still don’t know if three weeks is enough. I’d love to give exact dates, but we just can’t do that, it’s aspirational.

Mrs Christian – Agree with Mrs Caine, you are rewriting history, do you not regret not taking earlier precautions, I asked if we had considered mitigations other than lockdown, you stuck by policy, I asked why no distancing and face coverings but didn’t want knee jerk reactions, it’s not hindsight it’s Feb 23 and by Feb 27 we knew we had community cases, why didn’t we take earlier measures, accept responsibility for not making decisive decisions when we urged you to do so.

HQ – We felt it was a proportional response. Lockdowns are very serious, we needed more data to take action.

President – I want to draw this to a close shortly.

Mrs Caine – I am not the one with selective memory, please go back to Feb 27/28 when unknown transmission was known, the Policy knew, Manx Radio knew, Dot Tilbury knew, why didn’t you? If you can’t say it was an error, what reassurances have we got you’re reading the data?

HQ – We can only work with the data. Our 12 month record is second to none, people jumping on the bandwagon. I’m as disappointed as anyone. We can only reduce risks as much as possible.

President – This is getting repetitive, final six questions.

Mr Thomas – We need to look to the future and learn lessons and avoid bunker mentality. The public should know my claim for 10,000 doses. It’s an extrapolation of UK figures adjusted for the Manx population. Thirdly, will you advise taking into account evidence over resilience of different age groups. 

HQ – We do continuously monitor the JVCI recommendations on a regular basis, if that needs to change then CoMin will. We need to look forward. Just to clarify, we’ve moved to 10 weeks on dosage gap, the UK is 12. Our best defence is vaccines, delighted we can get extra 10,000. Delighted it’s been 1,000 a day. Don’t forget we also started later.

Ms August-Hanson – Can you hear me? President – Yes. In the spirit of moving forward, in January we came out after 14 days with no unexplained cases, then why were some cases not enough to put precautionary measures in place in Feb? Moving forward, would you agree you need a wider range of advice?

HQ – Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We used the data we had. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. I regret this position but it’s unreasonable to say it’s our fault. 

Mr Hooper – You keep referring to proportional response, would you not agree there is a difference between advice and lockdown measures? Why don’t we have a middle ground? It’s very binary. Genomics, SAGE in the UK said they are very important. Can identify gaps in transmission. Scotland has results turnaround in two days, why are we not pursuing this when we have expertise on the island? 

HQ – We did do something, we advised people to stay at home on that Saturday. We advised people not to have dinners, dances, balls. Biggest regret is we didn’t have the data to act as we have now. We are linked to the England system on genomics, five days turnaround is the same as England is working on. 

Mrs Lord-Brennan – Is it not hazardous only to rely on data after the fact? Will you agree to put the exit strategy to Tynwald for approval? National interest. 

HQ – Document will be for Tynwald to receive, if it is voted down then we will think again, it is the will of Tynwald. So many of you have the gift of looking into the future, we have to work based on evidence. 

Mr Harmer – Do you agree with me that all jurisdictions have faced the same problems, genomics only works for looking back, vaccine rollout boost is good.

HQ – Yes thank you minister, I agree. 

President – Final Question

Mrs Barber – Local news company had spoken to a family with positive cases before you put the figures out, the current delays are not conducive to delaying the spread.

HQ – We’ve spoken to track and trace, additional resources are there, worked to cut the turnaround time, we’ve set records for testing numbers on the island. CoMin will make sure they have resources they need.