HQ Statement on Covid

We have cautious optimism, the key data is heading in the right direction, but it is going slower than we had hoped for.

The majority of cases are now being found in high risk contacts.

Fewer people in isolation.

All encouraging steps.

Thanks to everyone who has followed the rules.

Disappointed that the number of unknown sources remains stubborn, this is our biggest concern.

We have been living with Covid for a year now, we still need to take action to rid it from our island before we move to living with it.

We are still living with the goal of prevention rather than cure.

None of us can relax, we must remain focused on the task in hand.

Plea to the Manx public to do what is needed. Stay at home.

People going into work has become a recurring problem for us, you must work from home unless you absolutely need to go to work.

We must cut the chains of transmissions.

It is vital we release the pressure on our health services. They have now started to settle and there is a gradual reduction in the number of people in hospital, but this must fall further.

We need to protect our food retailers too, people should keep their distance in shops and follow other guidelines.

We know the lockdown is difficult for some, especially those who live alone and single parents. Pleased we have been able to make changes for those who really need it.

This is NOT a green light for social mixing. Mixing can bring an additional risk but we can’t ignore the risk to people’s mental health. People must do what is right for them but should do it safely.

I know when I announced it on Friday a lot of people sought clarification, that probably showed how many people feel like they need this. We have extended this to outdoor spaces and car sharing. We aren’t encouraging people to mix, just saying they can if they need to.

I hope we will continue to see new cases falling and we all want to see the end of the measures. The chain will fail at its weakest link and we have to protect each other to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Our vaccine programme is a key part of this, almost 30,000 people have had at least one dose. I know there are concerns about the supply chain, we are prepared for this, there will be peaks and troughs. Last week they did over 7,000 across seven days, but they are ready for if this supply slows down or speeds up.

Questions

Julie Edge – How many people in each priority group? And how can you speed up the first dose for more people beyond priority groups?

HQ – Over a third of our population have had at least one dose, each of our top four groups have 90% for at least one dose. For one to six it is over 70% for at least one dose. The UK’s record day was a smaller percentage of their population than ours was.

Jason Moorhouse – I tried to get an urgent question on this but it was rejected, would you give a statement on the impact of Covid on Bus Vannin with specific reference to the workforce.

HQ – We continue to operate to the permanent timetable even with 40 people off work. The DoI has a lot of options to fill the gaps. We can fill the routes even when they went on strike, we kept the routes going. Drivers are provided with PPE and other measures are in place. We are asking people to only use the buses if it is an essential journey and to only pay with contactless payments. The DoI is doing surveillance testing of the workforce and will know the results in a few days.

Lawrie Hooper – About the vaccine schedule, it is concerning overly 4,500 booked in for the next seven days, what happened to the 1,000 a day target? And how many of the 15,000 in our possession are for the first and second dose?

HQ – I think you need to compare us to everyone else, we are ahead in the overall number of doses in the UK, Jersey and Guernsey and we are closing the gap on first doses. Over 15% of our population have had both doses. We have to ensure we have enough to provide the second dose when people are due to come forward. We aren’t holding back stock, but David Ashford is due to give you a presentation on Thursday for the rollout going forward. We are continuing to monitor the UK’s supply issues. We have given a remarkable number of vaccines in recent days.

Chris Thomas – Would CoMin accept congrats for pivoting policy on bubbles and second doses. Since you’re doing this as a public information piece, could you confirm everyone is better off with their second dose being done at 12 weeks and will you delay everyone to 12 weeks? Thirdly, you have compared here to our neighbours, can you advise what the amount of cases is compared to the North West of England?

HQ – A bit like war and peace. We listened to people on the support bubbles and we made changes. David is due to give a speech on vaccines. I think people are misreading the 12 week report, it does not say it improves long term efficacy, the pure purpose was to see if leaving the second dose affected the impact of the first and it doesn’t. If we were to rebook everyone at 10 weeks to 12 weeks, it would lead to changing thousands of people’s appointments. 

Claire Christian – Will CoMin consider a strategy for continued surveillance testing and vaccines for essential workers.

HQ – We’re now doing it for bus drivers, Steam Packet and offering it to teachers. We have gone over this a number of times now, the only group we didn’t follow JCVI was the Steam Packet and air crews and that is because they mix with people off island. Vaccine rollout is prioritised to protect the most vulnerable first. If we take it from the vulnerable to give to the police or the bus drivers, it is taking it away from someone who needs it more urgently. Vast majority of people will be done by May anyway, so we’re sticking with our methods.

Dr Al – Would you agree that the figures about priority groups can be seen online and the numbers book changes daily? And during a period of heightened levels of infection if anyone has symptoms they must stay at home.

HQ – Thankyou minister, I agree entirely. 

Julie Edge 2 – The worldometer – you said we’re doing really well, I think we need accurate daily comparisons. What you didn’t say was how many people are in each priority group. You say war and peace, we are at war with Covid, when will the rest of the priority groups get their jabs?

HQ – Mid April for the groups one to nine and regarding numbers of various groups I know there are several thousand in each but I will get this added to the dashboard for everyone to see.

Jason Moorhouse 2 – I remain concerned about the number of unknown sources, would it be possible to start listing low risk venues etc, it could help? 

HQ – I’ll take it back to the team and if they see a value in it then we’ll do it but at the mo we’re telling people to only go out if they have to and to act as if people have the virus. 

Lawrie Hooper 2 – I’ve heard a lot that doesn’t ring accurately, how are we ahead of the rest of the British Isles? The UK has done 44% of its population, we have 34%, Jersey is ahead of us too. Does the Covid symptoms list need updating? Others have loads on their lists. 

HQ – I think I said we’re ahead in terms of overall doses delivered and we’re closing the gap on first doses. We stuck to a three week gap and now we’ve changed to the longer gap, we’re closing in on their first doses figures. Regarding the symptoms, Dr Ewart clearly stated that we follow the same definition as ECDC which is followed across the whole of Europe. If someone rings up and our medics think they need to be tested then we’ll test them but listing everything under the sun isn’t.

Ralph Peake – Maybe you should respect Lawrie’s questions, people are just trying to understand the dashboard. Would you agree that it would be better to help people understand the dashboard.

HQ – It is important to get the messaging out, we did Q&A with James Davis, millions watched it (well ok 19,000). It can be confusing but there will be periods when we see much higher numbers and trying to explain the system isn’t always easy but we will try to up our game.

Chris Thomas 2 – You declined to make a clear statement for second doses and chose to read out a statement that JCVI is wrong, who prepared that statement and who confirmed that is our policy, you also declined to compare our Covid figures to the UK. The other week I said we could be 10,000 better off which you doubted and then confirmed, we’d be up to 50,000 now if we extended the gap, closer to herd immunity.

HQ – I’m very happy to circulate the comparison between our figures and the UK. I don’t remember agreeing with you, send me a link. I go on the advice of our professional, we have to make a judgement call and we followed the company’s advice on the dosage gap. We wouldn’t be complimented if we had deviated and it went wrong, as it turns out the advice changes and we followed that advice. CoMin aren’t experts so we have to follow the experts, we’re going to catch up pretty soon. We have dropped out vaccine reserve stock but we do need to keep some as we’ve been warned about supplies.

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