Tynald has voted unanimously to support the gov’s exit strategy.

Chief Minister Howard Quayle began the debate by outlining much of the same themes that were covered last week when the strategy was first published. He will return to Tynwald next month with an update of the framework.

Mr Quayle said the strategy is ‘not fixed in stone’ but will change as more evidence becomes clear.

The motion says that, Tynwald is of the opinion that Council of Ministers should:

  • Seek further external input;

  • Publish all the evidence relating to the Exit Framework journey being used
    to inform the Council’s decision-making;

  • Publish information on the health, social and economic impact of the
    transition from elimination to mitigation;

  • Provide details of incremental mitigation strategies to include but not be
    limited to household bubbles, incremental opening of lower risk
    environments, and surveillance testing.

  • Identity dates or pre-conditions (indicators) that should be considered to
    enable changes to occur;

  • Develop a communications plan to incorporate awareness around residual
    risk post vaccination and behaviours to assist with reduced risk of transmission; and

Notes that Council of Ministers will report back to Tynwald at the April 2021 sitting of Tynwald for approval of a simplified version of the Exit Framework strategy document and a corresponding delivery plan

Kate Lord-Brennan – Welcome the move to return in April with an update on document and delivery plan, this is of national and public interest. It is also clear we are not out of the woods yet. But any roadmap needs to give hope and signify change is in reach. What comes in April could provide provisional dates. We all know the situation changes all the time and with this comes apprehension and society unsure of what comes next, this is not natural or healthy. This third lockdown is very different and the public mood has shifted but there is hope with vaccines and changes in nearby jurisdictions. We should never forget that curtailing freedom won’t be the go to, people won’t tolerate this repeatedly. We could have a more sophisticated response beyond open or locked down. How can risks be managed using testing/ventilation and other steps. It is owed to the public to explain what they may expect. How many more lockdowns will we likely have before the end of the transition phase and before September? We are in suspended animation, public debate has started as to what this means. Some are afraid to speak out as the debate is polarising. There is a sense that gov is beyond question, it isn’t. Young people feel this approach is unjust and older people who feel forgotten. Some businesses are struggling and uncertain about their future on this island. If businesses knew what to prepare for then they could ready themselves for it. Cost of lockdown is £16m to £20m per month of lockdown but this isn’t reflective of the real cost, we need to cease benefits of our island. The good will in the public has expired, we need to replace that with hope. We need to find our confidence again. Quite often what gets said does not get listened to.

Clare Baber – I agree with much of what Mrs Lord-Brennan said, important we get this right. Important re recognise people are anxious. People feel this framework is too complex, we need to know what the gates look like, not a history lesson. We need to know how the island is going to open up. The pressure and strain on people’s mental and emotional health is huge right now. We need a document that is shorter and more understandable. Before April Tynwald I would like to see digital workshops with stakeholders so we can input into how the document is presented and if HQ could explain how organisations could submit feedback. I’d also like to know about how the vaccine status can impact on people. Manx solution for Manx problems is an admirable aim but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

President Steve Rodan – Breaking for lunch, will be back at 2.30pm

Bill Shimmins – At a recent press conference the Chief Minister advised this was well received, this was not the case and his statement indicates a break from reality. Outside his bubble this has not been the case. It is too long, too backwards looking and underestimates opportunities. Guernsey’s is far better. Gives people hope. I accept this is a first draft but I would submit it needs major changes to be successful. Essential to get external input, people are fed up with being patronised and ignored. Isolation proposals need to be considered and benchmarked against our neighbours. Manx solutions are becoming a reluctance to resist badly needed change. It is five weeks until tynwald is due to sit, this is too long to wait until we see a new version. I request CoMin should produce an amended plan within two weeks. This is really important for business and morale for our island. CoMin needs to step up their game. Chief criticising the media is not on, should stop doing it. If you want to shorten briefings, cut out the history lessons, don’t muzzle the press. The Q&A with James Davis is sinister and no way to communicate. This is causing significant anxiety and there is an urgent need for clarity. New exit plan needs to deliver hope.

Chris Robertshaw – I would like to compliment everything Mr Shimmins just said, particularly the need for an emergency Tynwald to review an updated plan. The Chief Minister’s talk before lunch is so behind the curve it concerns me where CoMin is getting its advice from. Hopefully Mr Thomas’ motion from this morning will help to rectify the self perpetuating bubble CoMin operates in. I want to challenge you on this, you repeatedly speak about data before dates and yet you have spoken of a clunky September emergence, this bears no relation to what members were told on March 15 which I can’t discuss in detail because it was marked private. Everyone should know what the anticipated roll out is. What I cannot understand is that the Chief Min not only had the complex exit strategy as seen but also the vaccine roll out plan, how can you have such a massive disparity between rollout and opening up the island? Imagine how people will react in the time between rollout being completed and the island opening up. You could’ve said we will link opening to the rollout but there will be some changes as needed, in other words, data not dates. CoMin needs to improve on how it reacts and I am losing confidence in this gov, it is a wake up call.

Bill Henderson – I want to give my wholehearted support to this strategy, the speech was plain, straightforward and easily understandable. It was a positive plan in light of this life threatening situation. This is a hugely difficult balancing act. Chief also was very clear about the extreme difficulty in trying to nail down the dates due to circumstances beyond our control. This is an international problem. I don’t envy the work CoMin has to do with this, I would commend their approach. We have to thank all our key workers and the private sector for doing their best in very dire situations. Some of the decisions haven’t been the best, but that is perfectly understandable. We have shone out as a beacon of hope and resilience and this should take us forward into the future with growing optimism and strength. The most dangerous thing that stands in our way is ourselves, we must keep solid and act on the advice received and Tynwald must be united. None of us here are experts and the one thing causing public confusion is the mixed messages from these debates. The media cherry pick select words to make a headline, we are frightening our community, we have to be in the business of all pulling together. We must back the plan. We have to balance community safety with economic health. Our hospital is having to turn people away because of Covid pressures so we have to be pragmatic here. The more pressure you bring to bear, the more likely you are to paralyse the system. We are, if we haven’t already, in danger of causing more harm than good. The PR and messaging has to be super clear, rushed PR leads to confusion, there must be proper explanations and we need a Tynwald members workshop when possible.

Lawrie Hooper – I’d like to thank them for tabling this debate but I don’t have much to say about it other than it needs a lot of work to get where it needs to be. The document is not as forward looking as it perhaps needs to be, businesses and the public need refinement and clarity. We need to engage with a broader range of stakeholders. We don’t know when, but we do know where we’re going. We do need to put it in our own Manx context. So I find it concerning that CoMin doesn’t know how many people who have positive cases have already been vaccinated. Don’t know where Mr Henderson gets his positivity from, but he’s right, none of us are experts. We should take advice and experience from as many places as possible.

David Ashford – This strategy is a starting point, no one should take it to be the definitive answer, it’s a roadmap. It is not set in tablets of stone. It is very hefty with lots of detail, but most people who have contacted me have welcomed the level of detail. It was important to get the document out. We have been engaging with other stakeholders and not everyone will be happy but it is a huge step forward. It is laying out a path which may deviate so we do have to recognise things may change. I hoped to hear positivity from Mr Shimmins but that is as elusive of the Holy Grail. I have done a tally and been contacted by 76 individuals about the framework and over 90% of those are positive. In terms of Mr Robertshaw’s comments, it is data before dates. It says September, if we can go quicker then we should. If the vaccine programme goes well and there are improvements here and in the UK then we may be able to move quicker.

Vaccine rollout is dependent on the UK. Thanks to the people who have spent 12 months dealing with Covid. It is a living document and should be treated as such. 

Rob Callister – I welcome the Chief Min’s strategy and the decision to come back in April with a simplified plan. I agree with Kate Lord-Brennan’s statements so I won’t repeat those. A very difficult balance but we also have to look at the cost to our economy and islander’s mental health. I feel there is a lot of info missing in this document. The September date is causing a lot of confusion. The UK is making moves to open earlier. This document is not good enough for the tourist industry, they need more clarity and leadership from CoMin. Guernsey’s document is longer but it gives clarity and understanding and gives the people a better understanding of how they’ll move out of elimination. The Manx people need to know when our risks will be sufficient to open our borders. I hope CoMin engages with this sector and wider community before bringing it back to Tynwald. I think people would accept July and then if we have to move it, then we have to move it. I hope you take this opportunity to give us a strategy that people can actually get behind.

Julie Edge – Important the vaccine programme is delivered and we need to see how this relates back to the exit strategy. Bill Henderson trying to give backbench a telling off, no it’s a democracy, we are entitled to raise objections. Tourism sector needs more help and clarity. When it comes back in April, I hope it is a forward thinking strategy that helps businesses plan going forward. The document doesn’t appear to have been developed with DfE agencies, like us they had no input.

Lord Bishop Peter Eagles – Important to acknowledge the limits of this document, much remains unknown but it sets out a path and that is what it seeks to do and we are asked to provide feedback. It does what a strategy should, it joins the dots from where we are to where we’re going. There will be surprises along the way which will impact on policy but I wonder how consistent data not dates is when you’re looking to look months ahead. I find the three phases quite helpful and show the delicate balance that needs to be handled very well. It gives us a narrative and the question is how we tell it at this stage of the campaign. People are tired of this, everyone has lived with it for a long time and worked hard to make our way through it. After all the positives of the second half of last year, of course people are tired now given where we are. There are issues around long term mental health and it will take some time for that to become apparent. The question for us is how do we find a voice to present the narrative the strategy offers to us. We need to tell this with humility and I believe this framework sets us on that path.

Dr Allinson – Cheers Howard for your statement and the complexity of the motion today. We’re asked to receive the report and develop it. I’d like to thank everyone who has inputted into this framework and that will increase. I worried we were going to go into a debate about elimination strategy and I’m glad we didn’t. We have a policy for zero deaths from road safety, this is very similar to that. Some people want more clarity and that will come with each development. If you compare it to the UK document, theirs is more vague than ours and doesn’t give the clarity we need for our island. We need to look back at where we were. Over 30,000 vaccines delivered, we need to move forward in risk mitigation and I think the document is clear in that. No vaccine is 100% effective and not everyone is having it but by the end of May we expect to have offered them to all adults and by end of June we will have given second dosage to all at risk groups, that will give people more confidence to emerge from the restrictions we’ve all had to endure. Only way to get the balance right is to communicate with as many stakeholders as possible. We are however following SAGE advice on the way forward. Opening too soon is a risk too far so we have to develop our own framework. 

Chris Thomas – There is a feeling we need better testing, more vaccines and more clarity and leadership. The way to get that is to show respect to all the voices in the community. We’ll be voting for this motion but three points sum it up for me, this is the starting point, not the definite answer, we need to listen to external voices and I want to put on record something about the motion because we all know we had some input into the motion. We all have to remember we are one people on the island and the correspondence we receive have come up more and more and basically we all have to remember we are self selecting, it’s easier for people to tell us they agree with us than they disagree with us. 

Tim Baker – Very interesting debate, what we’re all searching for is answers for us as individuals. There are some milestones and three phases, the document sets out our journey and shows what the building blocks are, what the risks are and what the indicators are. The framework allows flexibility. Many have spoken of September but we have a transition phase before then and the nuances are reflected. I looked at Guernsey’s document but it’s not better than ours. But it is very upfront about potential changes to their plan at short notice. Between May and July they have a phase which is similar to ours, their plans for passports and isolation and testing. It is riven with caveats, they have a superficially attractive date but there are no guarantees with that. Not criticising their framework, no better, no worse, just different. We have a gameplan, everyone wants it in stone but that isn’t possible right now. People want to know are we there yet? Well no but we’re getting there.

Ralph Peake – Start of a journey, it really needs respect right now, we need to get together and improve it. We need to work better with business and allow greater input, CoMin can’t do everything but help is staring them in the face. People want to help and work together, it’s never going to be the same again and we shouldn’t be fearful of that, we can still have a good future. This lockdown needs a different strategy and will need a different strategy post lockdown. This is the time for leadership and to fund a roadmap.

Claire Christian – Teamwork is what got us this far but we’re in danger of losing that. We need six things, clear common goals, respect and tolerance, balanced communications, build and maintain trust in this team, live with imperfection and know the unknown and don’t let uncertainty create paralysis and effective leadership. We have a clear common purpose to exit the restrictions. There are many valuable opinions out there but we need to know gov is listening.  We all need to be able to give and receive feedback positively. We have to embrace the private sector. The people want clarity. We need strong leadership from CoMin but also from Tynwald. This is a map with no distance or place names and without distances and placenames, a map is just a picture. The Manx people need good leadership.

Chief Minister closing remarks – Lots to comment on. We’re seeking to be clearer and we will engage with all stakeholders, not only Tynwald members but businesses too. This is the first draft and we’ll be back with an update soon. Disappointed Mr Shimmins has negative feedback but we’ll be back with a better plan next month. We won’t please everyone but we need to work together and if we can release earlier then we will, but let’s see what happens, we will be led by the data, not a fixed date. 

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