Tynwald members yesterday gave their unanimous backing to the gov’s updated Covid exit framework. We’ve broken down yesterday’s debate into short(ish) summary. This summary should however not been seen as a transcript of the debate, you can listen to the full debate here.
Before I begin, an update on the two new cases that were discovered overnight. Thank you to everyone who has worked through the night to find contacts. While there are similarities, they can’t be linked to each other or the last outbreak. Household members have been tested and additional positive tests have been recorded. There are now five in total, one of which is in a school setting.
We may never have certainty where it came from. We must do what we can to stop onward transmission. Even though we could lift restrictions on Monday, we should not assume life has gone back to normal and I would recommend vigilance.
The Exit Strategy
Life for many people is far from normal as they have not seen friends, family and colleagues for a long time and businesses in the visitor economy have been desperately awaiting us welcoming visitors to our shores to experience all our island has to offer.
Recently our focus has been on the last outbreak and supporting those hit by the economic impact of the restrictions. We have also continued to work on the exit framework and Version 2 is now ready.
The previous version was unanimously endorsed on the condition we came back with indicators and dates. That feedback has been incorporated into this updated plan which includes what you asked for. We will continue to respond to unexpected challenges thrown at us and as the indicators and dates may change.
These two new cases of concern are a sobering realisation of the reality we face of keeping the virus out of our community.
We will continue to work on a longer-term plan and sustainable connectivity for our island during which time we will need to update the framework. Version 2 marks the next and important step. It represents a wide variety of sources’ input including businesses, the visitor economy and members of Tynwald. The process has shown a diversity of thinking about how fast or slow we should face the inevitable task of reopening our borders. We must reopen borders at some point. We cannot continually put it off.
V2 marks a number of important changes in our approach
We cannot live with an elimination strategy for the long term, we need to work with a mitigation strategy as we live in a world with Covid.
We are now ready to enter the transition phase and go through the substantial changes from May 1 to June 28 when we aim to have, as far as possible, unrestricted travel between us and the British Isles.
Since the first version of the exit framework was unveiled, the vaccination programme has made great progress with more than 50k first doses administered.
The UK has delivered over 32mil first doses.
We are now better protected than first assumed.
The elimination strategy has served us well; the Swiss cheese defence has been the best approach but has not provided 100% security. It was about when, not if, Covid returned.
Lockdown should now only be considered when our health services are under threat. It is a difficult balance to strike between those who wish to keep borders shut and people who need to travel for business and see family.
There is a need for the government to raise the profile of good habits, for example, the 3Cs (closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings) going forward.
It is about accepting that a level of risk exists and driving it down.
We have taken on board what we heard after proposing version one particularly about developing messaging and increasing the vaccination programme.
V2 takes the discussion forward and ambitious targets have been proposed.
It may well need to change. In an ideal world, we would have more time to consider and consult but time is one thing we don’t have.
We will use this document to progress and guide us as we move forward.
Laurence Skelly: I second and fully endorse the plan
It has been a long time coming
You asked for a simplified version hopefully, this is that, it’s had a very short life but it’s travelled a very, very long journey.
Apologies for the lateness of the publication of the document, we’ve been trying to take everything on board.
There is a thirst for information but we need to cut off at some point and make a decision.
The well served elimination strategy has given comfort and business and it has predominantly performed very well but we are asking you to endorse not elimination but mitigation.
We have moved massively. Living with covid means living with risk. We can be proud of the vaccination programme. As we move through age groups, there are people choosing not to and unable to take it up. We know of 3rd and 4th waves and variants occurring all the time. We are going to have to live with this virus.
We live with other killer diseases like the flu – over 40 lives per year on average are lost due to flu on our island.
The last lockdown was very difficult, we didn’t want it but it was necessary. We have just opened but already there are other cases of concern. This is the endorsement for what you have before you.
We have new cases, but this talks about how we respond to these cases and how we can continue with island life.
Living through the last lockdown has highlighted for me the mental health issues. The impact of which we won’t know for a long time but this is my number one reason for having to live with this.
Communication is going to be very important. We’ve tried to be as open as possible but messages get lost. The public needs to hear from us that we are going to live with this going forward.
This is a living document and it’s a roadmap and a pathway too. But the fundamentals and healthy habits are important too. A year ago we were being told don’t forget to wash your hands, like your mum used to say before your tea and that’s important. But the most important one is if you’re unwell, stay home. That is the key message.
Going into lockdown was easy, coming out will be hard. We cannot live like we have this past year.
Business travel will take an awfully long time to recover but people will be able to travel here and this is important to our economy.
We’ve been too traa dy liooar about this. This is a way out of this. It’s a difficult time here on the island. I commend the strategy before me
Claire Christian: First off, thank you for including everyone here to put together the strategy. I hope the comments from members are taken as constructive. We’re all here to do what is right for our community and our island. It’s refreshing to see how everyone has contributed to it and I’m proud to be a part of this.
I welcome the document and the framework. I am pleased to see specific dates and guidance. It was welcomed by the public. They like dates and data, they like to plan. We should continue to provide these and milestones while highlighting they’re subject to change.
But, genomic testing isn’t mentioned in the exit strategy. The document mentions tools at our disposal but not genomics. I’d like to see it utilised and detailed.
I would also like to see more details about response levels.
It is implicit that we already know drivers and data required between response levels. Let’s strive to give more empirical data to better inform the public.
Lots we already know we can and should define. This will help with transparency about decision making which the public is crying out for
Response models. Be bold and publish these.
Hope the same expediency that has been used in the last month is used to communicate this information. Complacency will set in fast. I want to see reminders of healthy habits on buses and in coffee shops right now.
Paul Quine: I welcome clarity of defined time frame and fully support this plan.
The past year has caused deep anxiety, uncertainty and loneliness for many of our residents.
Business is looking to the government for a clear pathway for trading conditions can be fully restored and important meetings to be scheduled with certainty
We have to accept the virus will be with us indefinitely. Therefore, science must be the guiding light on how we deal with it.
Vaccines have brought certainty. That and a robust and effective testing programme is what will allow us to return to normal.
We must look to relax the borders so our families and businesses can start to plan for the future.
I’m glad CoMin will keep the timescale under review. Given the UK infection rates continue as they are, can we accelerate the path quicker? We currently fulfil the criteria to be fully open already.
Secondly, will we consider an accelerated pathway for people travelling for business to do one day isolation and testing upon arrival?
Alf Cannan: No plan survives contact with the enemy
Now we seek another phase
I commended the vaccination process. Must take confidence in success other countries are having in death and hospitalisation rates as a result of vaccinations.
100% of the population are not and will not be protected. Cannot brush over the fact some will die and remain at high risk despite vaccination
We must be prepared to move forward in this environment where covid is with us
For the health wealth and sanity of the nation, we must embark on this journey as protected and prepared as we can
Bill Henderson MLC: I stand by comments from the March debate.
I support the government strategy now.
Thank HQ for bringing this here and listening to all our views and from the workshop, Skelly headed up.
Particularly pleased about dates and the fact it is flexible
Everyone in the community will have to take personal responsibility
Complacency crept in during this last lockdown
Comms have not been clear enough at times
Reiterate Skelly‘s comments about the requirement for communication to be clear and provide examples so the message is much clearer
WHO was too slow. Did not learn from SARS, swine and bird flu. Sincerely hope WHO learns from what we’ve learnt so far and make changes going forward on how we organise information and issue guidance
Face coverings really irk me to the point of anger. I was castigated by the health minister himself for wearing one. WHO advice was do not use face coverings. Other medical experts were promoting the use of face coverings. That advice has been reversed. I will leave it at that.
I am fully supportive of the strategy
Bill Shimmins: I’d like to correct HQ’s remarks when he said that V1 was unanimously endorsed. That is misleading. I’d encourage whoever is writing his speeches to spot putting in these misleading comments. The first version was received, subject to criticism and amended.
Community transmission was always going to happen
Don’t apologise for the short notice, we’re in a crisis situation
I welcome the fact this version is shorter. There is much less waffle and it contains dates. It is still too long at nine pages. Get it down to four pages, please. We don’t need long sentences in a public document. Use infographics. It’s overly complicated. Need to simplify it, please. Might be better to outsource. Better to have a comms team detached from the trenches.
I appreciate it was put out at late notice.
I absolutely support the move to mitigation
Elimination strategy has caused damage to our society
People have taken their lives and our health services have not been tackling other issues Livelihoods have been devastated despite treasury support
There has been disruption to the economy and families
I am firmly in favour of mitigation however it requires the effective deployment of risk controls
The strategy places overly high reliance on no. of cases per 100k in the UK. It’s good to have an indicator but border restrictions may never be relaxed if we rely on those numbers. Would be devastating if the borders are not relaxed.
Key indicators need to change from previous thinking.
I commend the success of the vaccination programme, this should influence changing the key indicators
ICU capacity should be the basis of key indicators
Can I have clarification on what pathways actually mean for household isolation? Can they go outside? We now know if you’re outside the risk is massively reduced so why would we not look to factor that in?
This doesn’t favour the less vulnerable
I commend dates being detailed and understand they may need to change
Lateral flow testing – we know it’s not 100% effective but other places are doing it to recognise asymptomatic people and have them isolate
We overestimate their cost and understate the effectiveness
Why are we not differentiating in risk management approach about vaccination?
We’ve got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk – wearing a mask. I am wearing one but no one else here is. We’re in an enclosed place but this is what is detailed in the document.
We should encourage people to lose weight and exercise more not just wash their hands
Genomic testing – I’m concerned about not doing it quickly enough. I’m not fussed about who does it but how quickly it’s done. If we knew it was the Indian or South African variant on the island we might all feel less comfortable sitting here right now, we might shut the pubs tonight
Don’t dilly dally
An emergency advisory group would help
This strategy is much better so thank you for listening
We need to take this seriously and lead by example
Ralph Peake: I am not so keen on the framework document
The team have worked on this for a long time. There are lots of contradictions, they can’t see the wood from trees
We need to co-create a document for a pathway of mitigation and move away from elimination
Chris Robertshaw: We need to get down to a simple number of words so the public know what mitigation means
We need to keep it down to a few words to communicate clearly
Ventilation needs to be considered and communicated going forward
Peter Greenhill MLC: I fully support it however the document was sent to members of Tynwald and the press while we were in session
Much of the text needs to be corrected and a separate and proper proofreading exercise undertaken. It was a quick turnaround. The concept is right but it needs to be accurate
Kate Lord-Brennan MLC: I have concerns about the approach and language. We need something more public-facing There is lots of civil service jargon
We need to be clear that the policy is mitigation.
I will only support it if it comes with an accompanying commitment from HQ that it will come with a fresh and new public awareness campaign. This is critical to the success of the strategy.
I agree with Mr Robertshaw’s comments about the education around ventilation
Note that shielding isn’t mentioned in the document
There is more work to be done to push this over the line so the public can understand
Daphne Caine: I welcome the strategy although it is not perfect. It has confusing language and there are typos.
This is the first step in the path to normality
I agree with Bill Shimmins, brevity is best.
When we have so many people vaccinated, why are we putting in so many mitigation measures?
It will be a serious blow if we don’t stick to the dates because of the numbers
We need clear guidance on what will happen to arrivals who test positive and around the genomic support
I also want clarification on border force
As we hear that a class at Ramsey has been sent home to self-isolate, are we really moving to a mitigation strategy?
David Ashford: I support and would like to thank everyone for the effort that has got the document to where it is today.
Clare Barber: I also have concerns over the length of the document. It needs to be clear about what happens when there are cases. Do we lockdown?
With this focus on ventilation, we need support for business to adapt
Lawrie Hooper: The messaging is what matters. There is a lack of indicators around hospitalisation and case numbers on the island and considerations for people who will get covid and live with the lasting effects. It is missing how health services will respond to a mitigation strategy. There is no mention of Ireland in the document but Ireland’s case rate will impact routes to Ireland. When in this phased return does the Chief Minister see transport between Ireland resuming?
Nothing mentioned in the document about how to manage reduced pathways including those who are in isolation
If we are not conducting border testing what are the intentions to identify variants?
I want clarification of how the strategy will impact the under 16s if they have not been vaccinated.
The communication is not consistent. This morning’s press release about new cases – This is a low number of cases that are not cause for concern under mitigation. Government comms must be clear and consistent.
I propose another 3Cs – Crystal Clear Communication. The message must be strong
When do we stop announcing new cases? If we keep reporting numbers each day, how will this fit in the strategy of mitigation? Managing the risk we face now needs to be the focus of the message.
I am happy with the strategy but concerned about its implementation
I want to know how HQ will turn the strategy into action. If the implementation is not right will be catastrophic
Chris Thomas: No one has read out exactly what we are being asked to agree. I am not entirely happy about what I am being asked to approve, I need clarification from HQ about the definition of unrestricted British Isles travel. Long term sustainable infrastructure and services – what exactly is that? Maintain testing, tracing and isolation processes – providing a clear statement of what each of these mean.
Julie Edge: This is an area of concern – the strategy is focused on UK numbers when the impact of one case on the island can be over one thousand infections. We need a Manx solution for a Manx problem. What assessment risk profile has been done for the health services? Preservation of life should still be the focus. Clearer and more concise information would be helpful.
Tim Baker: This does what it says on the tin. I’ll be fully supportive.
Jason Moorehouse: People are concerned about the move to no testing at stage 3, this may need to be considered.
Chief Minister response:
Messaging is the key complaint. We failed in this document and we can do better
I am more than happy to have constructive criticism and today we have had that
Chris Robertshaw, I know we need to beef up section 3
I will consider all comments for future changes
The document does refer to rapid identification in regards to genomics
It’s a bit of a Goldilocks situation – we’re trying to get it right. It is pretty hard but we’re doing our best to take on board views
I acknowledged Bill Shimmins’ comment that we should encourage people to get fitter
Paul Quine: Your request for a clear pathway for businesses – science must be a clear light.
We can accelerate levels earlier depending on our situation and the UK.
If the vaccinations continue we can do more, depending on supply levels.
Indicators are not 7-day averages but 14 cumulative averages
Alf Cannan: You’re right, we’re living in a world with other things that will kill us and we must not forget about them
Robert Henderson MLC: You put over the need for personal responsibility and that people will have to step up. This sits firms in the strategy but there is no room for complacency. We need to get that message across.
Bill Shimmins: We have looked at different ways we resource communication with a different perspective that this could bring. The previous version had everyone’s vote but had a lot of criticism. I take that on board. Thanks for your positive and supportive comments on the need for people to travel once again.
The vaccination programme has got us to this point.
Indicators – they are just indicators and are only a guide. Indicators will not only be the infection rates in the UK. You mentioned patients in hospital and the number of people in ICU as an indicator Being able to understand the data and how it will work going forward once we’ve vaccinated more is very complex. Perhaps this is something Warwick University will be able to help us with.
Regarding rapid identification of variants of concern – the medical community have taken this forward.
Outsourcing the comms – maybe we do get stuck in our bubble. Maybe we need people who are looking from a different angle.
Ralph Peake: I look forward to reading suggestions for framework document improvements
Chris Robertshaw : We have mentioned ventilation in the updates.
Peter Greenhill MLC: You are grumpy about the spelling and grammar in the document. It wasn’t rushed but we had spotted mistakes and made changes but it was too late.
Kate Lord-Brennan MLC: The language needs to be made easier to understand.
Regarding shielding – some people cannot be vaccinated. We must help them. Give them advice about the seriousness of the situation when covid is in the community. We cannot help everyone they need to make that decision themselves. I feel very sorry for those who cannot get the vaccine
Daphne Caine: You said there is too much information in the document and that we need to put some on the website. I take on board these comments.
Closing a school is more aligned to an elimination strategy. Sending one class home or one part of the school closing is more in the realms of mitigation.
You wanted clarification on the border set up – we don’t have all the answers now but we are going on a journey and will have to work out details together.
David Ashford: Yes, it is about balance. You clearly say what mitigation is (the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something)
Clare Barber: In regards to helping businesses adapt with ventilation, the DOE does give grants for business support and businesses looking to up their ventilation systems. This is a key area.
Lawrie Hooper: This is evidence that CoMin has listened.
The Government must take the whole island with them.
Lack of indicators regarding Ireland; we need to consider this but the hope is that they will improve too. Ireland is part of the common travel area, we want to have the people of Ireland come to the island ASAP and look forward to working with them on that.
Your 3 cs (Crystal clear communication) – we’ve got to try and come up with that.
You asked when to stop comms about each new case. As we move to mitigation we will have to change that
Chris Thomas: You had 3 questions.
This removal of the word from the majority was a specific suggestion from a number of members. Yes it reflects personal choice
Long term sustainable infrastructure and services – what exactly is that? In short, it could be all of them. It could be additional infrastructure in health or in our borders.
I concur that maintaining testing tracing and isolation means keeping going what you’ve been doing but improving where we can and clearly need to.
Julie Edge: Your concern about 1 case leading to 1,000 people infected. We now have a much better vaccination record which is allowing us to move forward. The last figures show no elderly people in hospital due to covid, only those with underlying health issues. It is younger people in their 40s who are not vaccinated that have been in hospital due to Covid. This is why people need to take the vaccine.
Surge testing is referred to in the document
Tim Baker: Yes, this is a framework, thank you for highlighting this.
Thank you for drawing member’s attention to summary 1 on page 9 that tries to simplify some of the complexities
Jason Moorehouse: I agree that moving forward we need to give more info on this new outbreak.
I am looking for Tynwald court to approve this strategy so we can move forward.
I will do my utmost to give more detail on the outbreak
There is a briefing tomorrow to the public and a press release is going out now.
I look forward to working with members on this in good constructive debate