The past week has seen an increase in cases of Covid on the island which in turn has brought some understandable concern amongst residents.
To try to get a grip of what is happening, Gef has broken down the past week’s events as we try to make sense of what’s happened and where we’re all headed.
As cases have risen, as of 3pm today (Monday July 19), there are 892 confirmed active cases on the island with one person receiving treatment in Noble’s. A big number of people have also noticed discrepancies in the gov’s reporting of these figures. The number released on Sunday showed an increase of 95 new cases, but the number of active cases rose by 233 in the same 24-hour period. We could put this down to a number of reasons, but the one the gov is using is that there’s a ‘lag’ in the system.
Testing and Tracing
A core element of the issue has been testing, or rather the lack of it. Last week we heard stories of people waiting days for a PCR test leaving them required to isolate because of their contact with a positive case. But then on Wednesday evening this all changed. The gov announced that ‘with immediate effect anyone identified as a close contact, who has no COVID-19 symptoms, will no longer be required to self-isolate or have a PCR test’.
Instead of isolating and testing close contacts, they were ‘strongly encouraged’ to take part in a free seven-day home testing scheme and to be extra vigilant for symptoms. This meant that anyone who was isolating because they were identified as a close contact was released from isolation immediately. Since then we’ve heard, including from MHKs who have raised, of people doing what is asked of them, taking LFTs, testing positive and contacting 111 for a PCR, only to be told they have to wait for one and advised to stay home, despite not being legally required to do so, as they wait for a PCR test.
Get Em Before They Go
That night, like when Willy Wonka sent out the Oompa Loompas with news of the Golden Tickets, the Civil Defence were dispatched to four of the island’s high schools to hand out lateral flow tests. Much like when Wonka Bars flew off the shelves, the tests were snapped up. The gov provided a top up of tests, with people told they were only for those who were close contacts and these too disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived.
On Thursday afternoon the gov issued a new statement saying that the LFTs would be available later that night from the high schools and some pharmacies, but they would only be available to those who had been identified as close contacts and could be collected by those contacts who were asymptomatic or a family member or friend on their behalf.
Be Safe, Be Smart, Be Kind,
To emphasise the importance of making personal choices, the gov commissioned Michelle James and Chloe Shimmin (co-founders of Hello Little People) to produce a video designed to help young people remember how they can mitigate the risks of catching and passing on Covid-19 and it’s annoyingly quite catchy.
Through the end of last week and into the weekend, the sun was shining and thousands were out enjoying the island’s beaches such as Costa Del Port Erin. But, many others were living in the purgatory that was isolating while waiting on hold for the Covid 111 hotline having tested positive when using an LFT. Speaking to some readers and MHKs, a situation became clear where people were waiting for a considerable amount of time on the phone and then being told the wait for a test would be a matter of days not hours before they could get a PCR test.
The gov advised people waiting on hold to ‘hang up and try again later – rather than wait on the line or make repeated calls’.
Health Minister David Ashford added: ‘I understand that this is a frustrating situation for many people, and would ask for your understanding at this time of high demand. Our 111 team is very busy at present. If you can’t get through when you call, there is no need to worry – the important thing if your LFD test is positive or you have symptoms of coronavirus, is to stay home and prevent the spread of the virus. The team will get to you, but it may take a day or so in the current circumstances. There is no point holding on for lengthy periods of time. If you can’t get through, call again later – that’s the sensible approach to reduce demand in the system and lessen your frustration.’
The gov was also having to remind people that they could not stockpile testing kits and urged people to ‘act responsibly and not request a kit unless they are a close contact, or are collecting a kit on behalf of a close contact’.
As of 8am this morning, a number of changes have been made to visiting rules for Noble’s and Ramsey District Cottage hospitals and this afternoon we found out Tynwald will be sitting remotely this week. So where do we go from here?